WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Extensive shootout experience can be hard to find, particularly on the 14U level.
But when the North Shore Vipers set their lineup for the shootout against the Arizona Kachinas in the 2A title game of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U National Championships, they were able to put a player with national competition experience in the final spot.
Julia Lambert delivered from that position, scoring the shootout goal that clinched the national championship and 2-1 victory Monday morning at the Ice Line.
Lambert and some of her teammates in the Massachusetts-based program won the 10-and-Under Girls division of a 3-on-3 tournament at the T.D. Garden Arena in Boston in 2019. Lambert also won the separate individual shootout competition, earning her the right to compete in both events at the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose, Calif. later that year.
Even with all that specialized work in shootouts, Lambert needed a little help from veteran coach Keri-Anne Allan to win a title that was fittingly decided on shootouts.
“My coach always tells us — KISS, which means Keep It Simple Stupid,” said Lambert, who was the team’s leading scorer in the tournament with two goals and three assists. “You want to keep it simple. You don’t want to do the most stickhandling where the goalie can know what you’re going to do. You want to shoot it. They’re not to expect you to just shoot it.
“I don’t want to brag, but my best skill is my shot, so that worked out for me.”
Allan introduced the KISS concept to her team this week after it fell to 0-2 in shootouts, dropping one in the state tournament, then losing another Friday in pool play at Nationals, nearly pushing the Vipers to the brink of elimination.
The reassessment took place just in time to go against the Kachinas, who were taking part in their fourth shootout in six games at Nationals and had won two out of the previous three.
North Shore shot first, and through four of the five attempts, Vipers’ third shooter Jane Martin had been the only player from either team to convert her chance.
That meant Lambert had a chance to create the insurmountable two-goal advantage with just one more scheduled chance for Arizona. She relied on her past experience and recent advice.
Lambert had scored the winning goal in a shootout that put her 3-on-3 team in San Jose. She then finished fifth in the shootout skills competition in San Jose.
“We got the red-carpet treatment there,” she said.
Lambert saved the stylish moves for the goal celebration after putting the shot into the net.
“We were just making it too complicated,” said Allan, who, in her first year coaching this group of girls, was unaware of the depth of Lambert’s experience. “We were not keeping it simple. We wanted to keep it too low and deke and we were losing our opportunities like we did in the first couple of shots.
“The advice was something I pulled out this week that I learned from a previous coach long ago. It’s a simple game, you just have to play it well.”
Shae Gould, one of the players to make the San Jose trip with Lambert, had scored the game’s first goal midway through the second period. Arizona tied the game on a power-play goal by Kelzi Olson early in the third period.
Erin Judge stopped all 18 shots she faced in the third period and overtime to get the Kachinas into another shootout despite being outshot, 40-23.
“Their goalie was phenomenal,” Allan said.
Allan had won national titles as a player and assistant coach before adding one as a head coach. She won the ECAC Championship at Northeastern before the NCAA created its current Frozen Four tournament for women’s ice hockey.
The coach marveled at how well her players performed in their first national tournament. It helps when Lambert, Gould and goalie Cecilia Riiff had been in a different type of national spotlight before.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.