Ella Pukala scored the overtime-winner to give the Chicago Mission a 3-2 win, sending them to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship.
A tied game at two apiece heading into overtime, Pukala received a nice pass and powered through the opposing defensive skaters to earn a breakaway. She looked five hole and scored, sending her teammates flying to the ice to celebrate.
“I’m speechless,” said Pukala. “It was a great pass from my teammate, and I knew I had a step. It’s a great feeling, it’s awesome.”
Mission had the early chances in the first period, but it was the Lakers that struck first. Following good offensive zone play, the Lakers were able to create a turnover. Gianna Kowalkoski made her way to the back door. As she positioned herself, the puck was sent her way as she batted it home to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
Mission would threaten in the second period, including a shot that went just wide, and another attempt that went off the mask of Lakers goaltenders Ashlyn Hazlett before finally breaking through. After a shot went wide, the Mission collected the loose puck and delivered the puck out to the point. Ava Valencia fired a shot that made its way through traffic and into the back of the net to tie the game.
It remained a 1-1 game heading into the third, where the two teams traded chances. With just over eight minutes left, Mission had the would-be go-ahead goal, but it was waved off due to playing the puck with a high stick.
Shortly after, Mission put the puck behind the goaltender with thanks to a Peyton Oneill rebound, scoring from her knees, to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
That lead did not last long, however, as the Lakers earned a power play. Right off the faceoff, Ella Konrad passed to Lauren Mack on the half wall. Mack walked out and shot one top shelf to tie the game at two.
Mission will take on the Minnesota Green Giants for the National Championship. Head coach Joe Pocaro said he is excited for his group at the opportunity to play.
“They want it, they want it bad,” said Pocaro. “We’ve been there before with our 16’s and our 19’s, so we’re hoping we can get one with our 14’s.”
Behind a hat trick from Hannah Christenson, the Minnesota Green Giants defeated the Hartford Jr. Lady Wolfpack, 5-0, to move on to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship on Monday.
“This team has come a long way, we just kept building and building,” said head coach Al Blomker. “We had a good first game and then CYA took it to us and kind of woke us up. Since then we’ve been playing pretty good hockey.”
Despite being on the penalty kill, Minnesota was able to strike first. Christenson collected the puck in the neutral zone and made a nice toe drag move to split the defense. Once she was in the clear, she fired a shot on the glove side past Hartford goaltender Avery Rodeheffer to make it 1-0.
The Green Giants would strike shorthanded again later in the period. A good forecheck forced Hartford into making an errant pass that was intercepted by Mackenzie Jones. Jones took a couple of strides in and her shot found the back of the net.
Minnesota would score a special teams goal again, but this time on the power play. After an offensive zone faceoff win, Nora Sauer received the puck off the half wall. After walking toward the middle of the ice, she roofed a short side shot which pushed the Minnesota lead to 3-0.
Christenson would strike again in the second period. The Green Giants forced a turnover and Christenson collected the puck up at the top of the circle in her own zone. She then took it past both Hartford defenders and sprinted in on a breakaway where she went forehand to backhand and tucked the puck in.
In nearly a carbon copy move, just on the opposite side of the ice, Christenson completed the hat trick and capped the scoring at 5-0.
The Green Giants will take on the Chicago Mission, who won in overtime against the Minnesota Lakers, and Blomker is excited for the opportunity.
“Tomorrow is going to be a battle. [The Mission] beat a very good Minnesota Lakers team. It’s going to be fun, these girls have done a heck of a job from top to bottom all year long.”
HIGHLIGHT: Sauer puts it away.
Chicago Mission 7, Chicago Young Americans 1: Ella Pukala scored in the first period with less than four minutes remaining to start the scoring for the Mission. The Mission kept things rolling and advanced to the semifinals.
MN Green Giants 3, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers 2 (OT): Maya Engler got the scoring started for MN with a first period goal against the hometown squad. Minnesota tied the game with 23 seconds left, and then Noelle Hemr scored a short-handed goal on a 2-on-1 to advance the Green Giants to the semifinals.
Hartford Jr. Wolfpack 6, Little Caesars 5: Hartford got off to a fast start, scoring less than 30 seconds into the game. They then added two quick goals to increase the lead to 3-0. After the two teams exchanged goals, Little Caesars scored four unanswered to make it 5-4. Hartford tied it up at five before scoring the eventual game-winner and holding on to advance to the semifinals.
Minnesota Lakers 2, East Coast Wizards 1: East Coast struck first in the first period before the Lakers tied it up in the second. A third period goal from the Lakers pushed them forward to tonight's semifinals.