DALLAS - The Minnesota Walleye captured the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championship on Monday with a 2-0 over Little Caesars at Comerica Center. They went undefeated the entire tournament through six games.
Goaltender Isabella Prosser denied Little Caesars on 22 shots throughout the competition.
“It’s pretty awesome to be here right now. We didn’t find out until March 13 that we got the bid, and we had a lot of last minute planning to do,” said head coach Lindsey Czech. “The girls totally pulled it off and it was amazing.”
Although the first period of action remained scoreless, there were many key scoring chances. When Little Caesars was on the power play at 4:12 into the opening frame, Minnesota generated a shorthanded opportunity when a Walleye broke through traffic, becoming wide open on a breakaway, but Little Caesars netminder Natalia Dilbone made the stop.
The first power play for the Walleye came with 10:26 left the middle frame, but Little Caesars’ Addison Folger had a shorthanded breakaway chance of her own that was no match for Prosser.
The Walleye took full advantage of their second power play opportunity of the contest, when Ali Butler sent a cross-ice pass from the point to Hadley Bakker who fired a shot into the back of the net from just below the blue line. The opening score would prove to be the game-winner with 7:32 remaining in the second.
“We did the little things, and that’s what mattered,” Czech said. “We worked together as a team out there. It was really a beautiful thing to see.”
“It’s a great group of girls, and they love playing for each other. They go out there and play for each other. And that’s what’s important.”
The Walleye doubled their lead at 5:58 into the third, when Madelyn Kimbrel scored from down low for the 2-0 cushion.
Another quality scoring chance for the Walleye came in the third period when Madeline Elfstrand attempted to fire home a shot off a tic-tac-toe play, but hit the post.
Little Caesars fought to get on the board late in the third, but Prosser shut the door.
“This team means everything to me. We haven’t played all year like the other teams, but just in a short of amount of time, we’ve created huge bonds,” said Talla Hansen, who led the Walleye with seven points throughout the tournament.
“We have huge bonds, we have such amazing chemistry together, and all the girls love each other so well,” she said. “That shows on the ice because we worked together so well.”