WEST CHESTER, Pa. – Little Caesars defeated Minnesota Elite Vegas, 5-2, to claim the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 16U National Championship on Sunday. The Detroit-based team scored five straight goals to help them raise the championship banner.
It was Minnesota that struck first in the first period. On a two-on-one, Katelyn Parker made a nice pass across to Whitney Tuttle. Tuttle put the puck in the back on the net on the blocker side.
“We don’t get too high or too low,” said head coach Kenny Ryan on his message to the team after the initial Minnesota goal. “At the end of the day, stick together and everything is going to work out.”
The message worked, as Little Caesars would respond a few minutes later to tie up the game at one. On a rush, Ava Perrone sprinted down the slot. She then received a pass from the left side, and put the puck in on a high tip.
It was shortly after that Little Caesars would take the lead and control of the game. Kaia Malachino brough the puck down on her off hand. Malachino looked toward the front of the net where she saw a streaking Ella Blackmore. Blackmore, with her fourth goal and 10th point of the tournament, found the twine for the 2-1 lead.
The score remained 2-1 heading into the second period where Little Caesars added two more tallies to put the game out of reach. Midway through the second period, Cassandra Hall scored her fifth goal of the tournament. A power play goal, Hall deflected a shot from Blackmore to increase the lead to two.
Shortly after, Elyssa Biederman would score another special teams goal, this time short-handed. Little Caesars did a good job of clogging the middle of the ice, as an attempted shot was blocked, the puck went right to Biederman just outside of the zone, and Biederman went 1-on-1 against the Minnesota defender. Biederman toe dragged to get past her defender and just had the goaltender to beat. She faked to the left to open up the right side of the net and tuck it in.
“Clara made a great blocked shot, and I saw the loose puck and I took it,” said Biederman. “I was a little tired so I went wide and she overcommitted. I pulled it to the middle and made a nice fake on the goalie.”
Little Caesars increased their lead to 5-1 on a hard-working goal in front of the net. After the initial shot was blocked, a scrum ensued in front of the net. Giavanna Mancy was able to pick up the loose puck and score her first of the weekend.
Minnesota would score a late third period goal, and threatened with some chances to further close the gap, but goaltender Bailey Callaway turned away the rest of the shots.
For Little Caesars, the National Championship was a culmination of a year where they dominated, losing just one game, and went undefeated in regulation.
“I’m very proud,” said Ryan. “We set out at the end to win and the team came together at the right time and I’m very proud of them. They earned it.”