PITTSBURGH — It’s been a long time coming for the Saratoga Storm. Almost three decades to be exact. But Saratoga capped a historic weekend with the organization’s first championship in team history.
The Storm prevailed in emphatic fashion with a resounding 6-0 victory against the Chicago North Stars to claim the Chipotle-USA Hockey 2022 Senior Women’s National Championship on Sunday in Pittsburgh,Pa.
“It’s awesome,” said captain Reisha Rieder. “We’ve been trying to win this for many, many years. We finally did it and it feels awesome.”
Chicago and Saratoga both entered Sunday’s championship with unblemished 5-0 records and the top goal differentials in the tournament. Saratoga scored 23 goals in five games, while Chicago had 27 goals in the same timeframe. Both had allowed four goals in five previous contests.
Saratoga enjoyed a breakout, six-goal effort in the championship game.
“We were so focused on winning this year,” Rieder said. “We go (Nationals) every year. We were focused and we wanted it. It feels great.”
Ashley Meyer led the charge with a four-point effort, scoring two goals and adding two assists. Erin Fleury wasn’t far behind with two goals and a helper, while Rebecca Gregg also had a goal and an assist. Scotlynne Rieder, the daughter of Reisha Rieder, also found the back of the net, while Rylie Murray, Ashley Scott, Amanda Castignetti and Rachel Gantt all provided assists. Jennifer Gregg enjoyed a 15-save shutout.
“We have a lot of depth and I’m happy to be part of that,” Meyer said. “Anybody on this team could be dangerous at any time.”
Meyer was dangerous on Saratoga’s second shift of the game. She came down the left side, off the rush, and whipped a wrist shot over the shoulder of Chicago goaltender Regina Engel for Saratoga’s first goal of the game at 13:48 of the opening period.
Meyer helped on the second goal of the game, scored by Scotlynne Rieder with 3:31 to play in the first, as Saratoga opened a 2-0 lead.
“The early cushion absolutely helps,” Jennifer Gregg said. “I told the team from the beginning of the game, if we scored early, then it would put them on their heels.”
Chicago scored 3-1 victories against Rochester and Indy, in addition to dominant performances against Cleveland and Annapolis that saw the North Stars outscore the opposition by an 18-1 margin.
It was a similar story for Saratoga, which defeated Carolina 10-1 and the District Renegades 6-1 before a 4-0 shutout of Southern Thunder and a 2-1 shootout victory against Michigan.
Chicago rallied from a 1-0 third-period deficit to defeat Michigan 3-1 in the semifinal, while Saratoga held onto a one-goal lead in the final 15 minutes to defeat Rochester 2-1 and advance to the title game.
“We played as a team,” Reisha Rieder said. “That’s why we won. And we always play as a team. Some teams have superstars who are phenomenal, but they don’t play as a team. We did, and I think that was the difference.”
Fleury scored on a scramble in front of the net 18 seconds into the second period, giving Saratoga a 3-0 lead.
Then, a late second-period goal put the Storm ahead by four goals. Fleury blocked a shot in the defensive zone. Then, she sent a pass up ice to Rebecca Gregg, who beat Engel with a deke on a breakaway.
Saratoga clinched its first-ever championship with a pair of power play goals in the third period. Meyer scored her second of the game on a shot from the slot at 11:20. Fleury did the same with 1:59 to play from the front of the net.
The only thing left was to file on the ice and mob goaltender Jennifer Gregg once time expired. Several players shared hugs before the final awards ceremony. Reisha Rieder and Roberta Steele passed out medals and offered congratulatory messages to teammates before everyone posed with the championship banner following the awards ceremony.
It was a fitting way for Saratoga to celebrate its first championship in program history.
“Our fans have been phenomenal all weekend,” Meyer said. “It’s amazing to have that many people come out and support women’s hockey. It was just a great feeling to have them with us, and women who have been part of the organization who helped start it. To witness how far it’s come, it was incredible, it was amazing and it was nice to see the support.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.