TAYLOR, Mich. — To say Anissa Boots was long overdue would be an understatement.
The young defenseman scored a sudden-death winner with less than four minutes to play in the first overtime period that sent the Taylor Sportsplex into a wild celebration for not only the USA Hockey Michigan District Girls Tier I Tournament title, but a comeback story that only Hollywood could come up with.
The 3-2 win over HoneyBaked sends Belle Tire to the 2020 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 16U National Championships, which will be held in Blaine, Minnesota, April 2-6.
Boots suffered a fractured tibia in November and was out of action for nearly four months until returning to the lineup March 5.
“The injury occurred as I was behind the net and someone from the opposing team took a shot,” said Boots, who is in her first year with Belle Tire’s 16U team. “The puck looked as if it was going over the net. I tried to duck, and I was against the boards behind the net, in which I fell awkwardly, which resulted in the break.
“Following the injury, I was on crutches for a few months and then a walking boot and after all that I was in rehab.”
Delivering the game and tournament-winner in dramatic style came in just her third game back. The goal came from the high slot just inside the blue line. Boots sent a wrist shot towards the goal that found the back of the net and sent her teammates converging towards her in celebration.
“The puck just popped out into the slot and I just took a shot and was fortunate to score,” said Boots, who was all smiles with the state championship medal around her neck and championship cap on her head. “It was very exciting and I am just so happy for all my teammates, we have such a great group of girls on this team and it’s been fun playing with them.”
After the game, Belle Tire head coach Dave Erwin had high praise for his team and for Boots.
“After losing the first game of the round robin to Little Caesars, the girls just kept battling back,” said Erwin. “Prior to this state tournament we had no success against HoneyBaked, losing three times and tying a fourth, but give the girls credit as they found a way to beat them in the final round robin game and this morning to capture the state title.”
Erwin was happy for Boots as well, especially after all the adversity she had to face this year.
“We have been without Anissa for almost the entire season,” said Erwin. “When she joined Belle Tire, we felt she was going to be a real key in our back end and now that we finally have her back on the team I very happy for the her. She was a real trooper in how she has handled all this, working very hard in overcoming this injury and never complaining.”
HoneyBaked played a strong game, scoring the first two goals and looking to extend the series to a third, winner-take-all, matchup. But in the end, they came up a goal short.
Head coach Rob Robinson felt his team deserved a better fate, but still has hope to get an at-large bid for nationals.
“We had a phenomenal year with over 40 wins,” said Robinson. “We did a lot of winning which fuels our hope for an invite to the Nationals. This is a very good group of girls that we have on our team. They all got along and enjoyed each other’s company and they played really well throughout the whole season.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.