LITTLETON, Colo. — Most teams in the USA Hockey-Chipotle National Championships field had months to build precious chemistry that wins titles. Minnesota Prep Orange co-coaches Maggie Koethe and Kelli Pritzlaff had to expedite that process.
The Premier Prep league team played together for about a month and a half in the fall, but split up for high school hockey. The team had just a handful of practices without full attendance to get ready.
Koethe and Pritzlaff, who played together at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, suggested group walks and kickball so everyone could talk and laugh.
It was unusual, but it worked to perfection.
“I think that just kind of shot us right to the championship game,” Pritzlaff said.
“These girls made it a lifetime experience for themselves.”
Brooklyn Johnson (2 goals, 1 assist) buried her own rebound in overtime to send Minnesota Prep Orange past Steel City Selects by a score of 3-2 in the Girls Tier II 16U 2A title game on Monday at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton, Colorado.
“I shot the puck and it came right back out to me and I shot it again,” said Johnson, 16, of Champlin, Minn.
Minnesota Prep Orange had a 34-11 edge in shots on goal, but never took the lead until the clock stopped and the bench erupted.
“That sounds about right,” Annika Mielke (1 assist) said.
“I feel like that’s our signature move,” Mielke, 14, of Waconia, Minnesota, said of playing from behind.
Steel City Selects’ Svetlana Yarosh opened the scoring on an unassisted breakaway. Johnson tied it with 16 seconds left in the second period on a shot that eked past the goalpost stick side.
Steel City’s Laura Crnarich gave her team a short-lived 2-1 lead on a 2-on-1 with Cameran Evans.
About two and a half minutes later, and 29 seconds into a power play, Emma Olson put it around the skate of Steel City goaltender Abigail Manzewitsch and tied the game at two. Olson also set up the game-winner.
Grace Erickson hit the crossbar and Tove Sorenson sent a tap-in wide as Minnesota attempted to settle the game in regulation. Steel City hit the post as well on a 2-on-1.
“We had to dig deep at the end,” said Olson of Dayton, Minn.
Peyton Boldt (four saves) and Claire Schmaltz (five saves) split time in net for Minnesota. Boldt allowed two goals in 37:32 of ice time while Schmaltz stopped all five shots she faced in 17 minutes.
The tournament got off to a rocky start for the eventual champs. Minnesota Prep Orange dropped its opener to the North Shore Warhawks 4-1 on Thursday.
“We weren’t used to playing with each other. The altitude was also a huge change,” Mielke said.
“But I feel like after we got our warmup game out of the way, then we started getting better. It was a good experience to evolve with each other.”
Three wins, one of which came in the shootout, followed. In Sunday’s rematch, Minnesota defeated North Shore, 2-1, to advance to the final.
A roster of girls from multiple high schools — Koethe said those who had played together previously, for the most part, weren’t playing together Monday — then made a wild memory.
“It’s cool because we came together,” Johnson said. “We clicked after the first game. We got it together and kept pushing through.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.