WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Just 26 seconds into overtime, Rachel Gorbatenko received a pass from her sister, Nicole Gorbatenko, and scored to give the Chicago Mission a 2-1 win in the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship. Rachel, normally a defender, was put at forward for the overtime period and it paid off in a big way for Chicago.
Nicole brought the puck along the right side. After driving toward the net, she found Rachel on the far side who put it in and began the celebration, waiting for her teammates to greet her at the net.
“My sister started skating it up and I knew we always practice together and slot it to each other,” said Rachel. “She put it over to me and I just tried to put it on net and it popped right in.
“It’s a very special experience and it really was a full-team effort. The plays and all the effort, we just went all in as a team. It was very special to experience this with my sister.”
The Green Giants had a glorious opportunity before most parents had even settled into their seats. Right off the opening draw, Minnesota sprung for a 2-on-1 and had two chances in the first 15 seconds. Both were turned aside by Mission goaltender Heather Wolff.
The play would go back-and-forth for the first two periods, with each team getting excellent scoring chances and even better goaltending. The Mission had two chances within a minute of each other in the first but both were denied by Minnesota goaltender Layla Hemp.
Wolff came up with a huge glove save, sprawling out with 10 and a half minutes left in the second to deny the Green Giants a goal. Late in the second, Hemp was moving one direction when the puck changed directions and moved back the other way. Hemp stuck out her leg in desperation and made a huge save to keep it a scoreless contest.
The Green Giants were finally able to break the scoreless tie with just under nine minutes to go in the third period. After a good forecheck, Maya Engler picked up the puck on the wall and walked toward the middle. She fired a shot, which was initially stopped by Wolff. The puck squeaked by where Amelia McQuay picked up the rebound and put it in.
Chicago tied it up four minutes left. They earned a power play opportunity and capitalized right off the draw. Ella Pukala won the faceoff to the boards. The pass went across to Nicole Gorbatenko who fired a one-timer. The shot was saved by Hemp, but Pukala went toward the net and put in the rebound on the backhand to make it 1-1. That’s how the score would stay heading into the overtime frame.
“I told the girls to just get pucks to the net and good things happen,” said head coach Joe Pocaro. “Rachel is normally a defender, but I just had a feeling to put her up at forward.”
The feeling paid off, as he was able to watch his team dogpile and celebrate. As the medals and plate was handed out, the 14U team went and celebrated with the 19U team watching along the glass. It was a special moment for the Mission coaching staff and organization.
“They’re such a great group of girls and they wanted it for sure. They’ve put the work in all year, and it paid off with a championship.”