WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Brynn O’Neill insists she was tired, bordering on exhausted. She didn’t look the part, though.
O’Neill made an end-to-end rush for the game-winning goal 1:47 into overtime Monday to lift Premier Prep Purple over the Arizona Kachinas, 3-2, in the 2A title game of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 16U National Championships at the Ice Line.
“I was actually really tired,” said O’Neill, who was not thinking about a rush to the goal when she picked up the puck near the goal line on the left side.
As she moved up ice, O’Neill saw an opportunity.
“I was super tied, but then I was thinking I could get it over with,” she said. “I spotted an opening on the outside.”
O’Neill sped into the offensive zone, split two defenders with a fake and kept going down the left wing. Her backhanded shot inside the near post ended the overtime quickly.
“You’ve just got to get it over with as fast as you can,” O’Neill said. “Just put it all out there.”
The whole tournament almost ended early for Premier Prep, a fall league championship team that splits up for the bulk of the winter while its members play high school hockey in Minnesota.
Premier Prep had one practice, one scrimmage and no games between reconvening in time to head to Pennsylvania for Nationals. Once the team arrived, they admittedly looked rusty, dropping games Thursday and Friday to go into Saturday’s completion of pool play needing a win to build a tie-breaker advantage to extend their season.
“It was a little challenge,” Premier Prep coach Brian McKinney said. “The girls didn’t give up, though. They just kept on working.
“They set a plan Friday and they pulled it out.”
In bracket play, Premier Prep had to survive three straight one-goal games, two of them in overtime.
“Our girls don’t play together all year so it took them a few games to get into the right sync,” McKinney said. “They started picking it up Friday night, then startled battling away.
“The last time they really played together was in the fall.”
O’Neill had the overtime game-winner in the quarterfinals and scored the first goal of a 2-1 semifinal victory over the Bay State Breakers (Massachusetts). Then, she scored the game’s first goal as Premier Prep took a pair of one-goal leads in regulation.
“She was our top scorer all weekend,” assistant coach Elizabeth Frosig said. “We always had faith in her when she got the puck.”
O’Neill, one of three Lakeville South players on the team, finished with six goals and two assists in six games.
The Adirondack Northstars from New York were the highest-scoring team in the tournament with its two top individual scorers — Jillian Willis finished with eight goals and 10 assists while Bayley Duffy had seven goals and six assists — but after scoring at least five times in each of their first four games, they lost in overtime to Arizona, 4-3, in Sunday’s semifinals.
Adelina Gularte scored with 1:14 left in overtime to put the Kachinas in the final.
Davy Mokelke tied the championship game at 1-1 and 2-2 by scoring twice for Arizona in the second period.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.