LITTLETON, Colo. — It was like deja vu for Assabet Valley when the final horn sounded overtime in the 2A title game against the Mid-Fairfield CT Stars in the USA Hockey-Chipotle Girls Tier II 14U National Championships.
Days before, Assabet lost to Mid-Fairfield in a shootout in the opening round of the national tournament. But this time around, Assabet had all the momentum on their side.
Assabet Valley ultimately claimed a 3-2 shootout win for the program’s 52nd USA Hockey National Championship.
“Tables turned in our favor this time,” said coach Kelly McManus Souza.
The Mid-Fairfield Stars held a one-goal lead for most of the first period before Assabet’s Sarah Powers snuck a shot through the legs of Julia Echavarria with just 25 seconds left in the opening period.
Sophia Busa scored for the Stars midway through the second period and entered the final frame with a 2-1 lead. Ella Souza, a defenseman and McManus Souza’s daughter, played hero for Assabet in the third period with the game-tying goal to eventually force overtime.
“We’ve been working all year trying to get her to hit that net,” McManus Souza said. “Those are some of the things we’ve been harping on all season, getting those screens and getting our D to get pucks through it. And she delivered.”
Assabet entered the overtime period with all the momentum and outshot Mid-Fairfield 18-3 in overtime but couldn’t find the back of the net. Assabet finished with a 39-12 edge in shots over the Stars.
McManus Souza said so many opportunities without converting a goal could get frustrating, but she told the team to remain positive.
“You have possession of the puck you are generating chances, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t convert on those, you’re still in control of the game,” McManus Souza told her team. “And how they viewed it I think was a game changer because we did have a lot of opportunities.”
Evelyn Doyle scored on Assabet’s opening attempt in the shootout with a deke from the right side. It would be the only goal scored for either team in the shootout.
“I think the girls had a lot of confidence and were able to relax a little bit going from the first game, playing and getting that experience under their belts, and they also had a payback mentality, too,” McManus Souza said. “I think they learned a lot in the six games we’ve played and I think most of it was confidence throughout the tournament.”
Elizabeth Luong had 10 saves in goal for Assabet, and stopped all five of Mid-Fairfield’s shootout attempts. Luong had three shutout wins for Assabet through the tournament, and finished with 105 saves and a .955 save percentage in six games.
“She was great all night and great all tournament,” McManus Souza said. “I think from her perspective in the shootout we kind of knew what to expect, we knew how they were going to shoot the puck and she made that adjustment and I think that was huge.”
McManus Souza said her team locked in after the opening-round loss to Mid-Fairfield, and shook off some nerves to enter the title game confident and calm.
“[Mid-Fairfield] is an excellent team, they play a hard, smart, simple game and they are always pressuring to step up in the neutral zone,” McManus Souza said. “So I think too having played them and knowing what to expect was helpful in our preparation and gave the girls’ some comfort in that.”
The Assabet Valley program has a long-standing history on the national stage with now 52 national titles. As a player, McManus Souza played for four national championships with Assabet, but never won. But Monday she got to see her daughter win the program’s first national title since 2015.
“It’s come full circle, it’s pretty special,” McManus Souza said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.