LITTLETON, Colo. — Minnesota Prep Black isn’t used to the sting of defeat.
Undefeated until the state playoffs, Minnesota Prep Black suffered a rare defeat in the opening game of the USA Hockey-Chipotle Girls Tier II 19U National Championships in a 2-1 loss to Buffalo, and two days later lost a heartbreaker to the East Coast Wizards in a 4-3 shootout loss.
And facing the top-seeded Alaska All Stars in the next round, Minnesota Prep Black knew what they had to do.
“We were crawling to get in,” said Minnesota coach Heidi Chandler. “I think that loss lit a fire under them. They’re not used to losing, so it switched them into another gear to make it happen.”
Minnesota defeated Alaska, 3-1, thanks to three third-period goals before taking down the East Coast Wizards in a 2-0 redemption win in the national semifinals.
And Monday, Minnesota clinched a dominant 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators to complete a resounding comeback for the 2A national championship.
Minnesota started strong against Nashville and set the tone early with a goal in the first four minutes, scored by Anna Scherling, before taking a 3-0 lead by the end of the period.
“I think we just kept that momentum and we realized we could beat them with our speed,” Fraley said. “They started playing more as a team, and no one was playing for themselves.”
Ava Johansson scored back-to-back goals, including a power-play tally in the first period. Emma Rooks scored two straight in the second period before Nashville’s Sydney Russell spoiled the shutout early in the third. Rooks led Minnesota through the tournament with six goals and two assists.
Minnesota outshot Nashville, 30-12, and Minnesota goalie Leah Bosch had 11 saves. She finished with a .961 save percentage, allowing just six goals through the six-game tournament.
Minnesota Prep Black averaged 32 shots per game, and in a 4-0 win over Connecticut Northern Lights, the team sent 54 shots to the net.
“We were looking at the records and our team had more shots than any other team and very few goals against,” Chandler said. “At this level, we know we are going to see good goaltenders, so the team that shoots the puck the most and crashes the net and gets those rebounds, that’s what it’s going to take. That’s embedded in our minds.”
Minnesota Prep Black is comprised of high school hockey players randomly selected from a pool to fill the eight teams in the Premier Prep league. They don’t skate together year-round. They don’t even practice together. They just show up to the rink, and win.
“It’s just impressive,” Chandler said. “They are individually talented skaters that came together and played as a team. It says a lot about Minnesota hockey, it’s nothing to do with us. The players have worked their butts off year-round. And even though they don’t play on the same team together year-round they are always working.”
Chandler said restarting each year from scratch is challenging, but also shows how deep the pool of talent is in Minnesota.
“You get to know more players and just like every year we are blown away with the talent like, ‘Where did she come from?’” Chandler said.
New teams are randomly selected each year, so the odds that Chandler and associate coach Kate Fraley will have the opportunity to coach this group again is slim, which made the national championship that much sweeter.
“We knew from the beginning with these girls, this was the best team we’ve had and we knew they could win,” Chandler said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.