PLYMOUTH, Minn. – Shattuck-St. Mary’s School has long since cemented its reputation for building sterling hockey programs. When the pandemic hit and there was a logjam of talent on college rosters, the Faribault, Minnesota, prep school decided to create one more.
A second high school girls 19U team debuted in 2021-22.
“(The pandemic) really created a need for another 19U, older high school team for players to come in and fill gaps before they head to college,” said Mitch Baker, who was tapped to coach the new team.
On Monday, the new Sabres’ squad concluded its second season with a win at the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey High School Girls National Championships in Plymouth, Minnesota. Shattuck-St. Mary’s held off a tough Anchorage team 2-0 in the final.
“It’s pretty, pretty awesome,” Baker said. “It’s an awesome finish to a great year and a good group, strong group. It’s not easy to win late in the season.”
Shattuck enjoyed a strong debut season in 2021-22 with 32 wins, 17 losses and 14 ties, but the Sabres weren’t eligible for the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships because the school’s existing Prep team was already competing in that division.
That remains the case this season, but when the school discovered the new 19U team was eligible for the High School Girls National Championships, the Sabres jumped at the opportunity.
Coming off a 36-15-10 season, Shattuck, with a roster featuring players from around the U.S. and some from other countries, got off to a dominant start in Plymouth.
The Sabres won their three preliminary-round games by a combined score of 33-0, with the closest being a 5-0 win over the Idaho Jr. Steelheads in the middle game.
Two more convincing playoff wins on Saturday — 6-0 over WEHL Western of Wisconsin, and 5-0 over St. Mary’s of California — sent Shattuck into Monday morning’s title game.
Awaiting the Sabres was their toughest test yet.
The Anchorage team is made up of players from a handful of high schools in Alaska’s largest city. After playing the regular season with their club teams, the all-star squad came together for the first time at the national championships.
Like Shattuck, Anchorage got off to a roaring start, winning its first game 16-0 and then flying through the preliminary round and two playoff games. Anchorage earned its spot in the title game with a 4-0 semifinal win over Team South Dakota on Sunday night.
In a hard-fought final that started late Monday morning, Shattuck’s leading scorer Payton Holloway came through as she has all season, netting a goal with 4:58 remaining in the first period.
This one wouldn’t be a runway, though.
The determined Anchorage team, which returned several members from last year’s national championships runner-up squad, never let Shattuck pull away. In a game that featured 16 penalties, the Sabres officially sealed it when Hailey Anderson scored an empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
“It’s a great group,” Baker said. “They work, they compete, they love playing with each other.”
Baker also praised Alaska.
“We knew it’d be a tight checking game,” he said. “They’re physical. They played that way all tournament. They’ve had a great tournament.”
Having played in several one-goal games this season, Baker said his team was prepared for the close game and felt confident they could hold onto the one-goal lead.
A big reason for that was goalie Monja Wagner. After splitting time with Reese Keating in the first five games, Wagner got the call on Monday and earned her third shutout of the tournament, matching Keating.
“They’re just so reliable and consistent,” Baker said. “They don’t give up rebounds. They take care of things. They move pucks when they need to move pucks, and they get whistles when we need whistles. All season long they’ve been the reason we’ve been in been in great games against some great teams. … They’re going to have great careers at the next level.”
Holloway, the Sabres’ leading scorer during the regular season by a large margin, led all scorers in the tournament with 16 points on seven goals and nine assists.
“She’s been a phenomenal player all year,” Baker said. “She logs a ton of minutes in every situation, she’s just reliable. A huge point producer for us all season. So for her to have the game-winning goal national championship game, it’s no surprise to me this year.”
Speedy forward Rowyn Ringor finished second to Holloway with 15 points in Plymouth, including a tournament-high 10 goals.
“The pace she can play at, the way she can get around defenseman and create speed for her linemates is outstanding and really second to none,” Baker said.
When Shattuck-St. Mary’s decided to add a second team, the school was hoping to be a leader in the women’s game. Two years in, that objective appears to be on track.
“We want to grow the game, we want the women’s game to keep growing, keep getting better,” Baker said. “To have the resources at Shattuck, everything we’re blessed to have, it was a great opportunity to take that step and really be a leader in the women’s game.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.