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A Loss Served as Confidence Boost for Mid Fairfield Stars on Their Way Girls 16U Title

By Lary Bump, 04/03/23, 5:15PM MDT


The Stars upset Shattuck-St. Mary’s 1-0 in the championship game

FRISCO, Texas – Shortly after the Mid Fairfield Stars (CT) arrived in Texas from Connecticut, they witnessed what might have been an omen going into the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 16U National Championships.

On the second day in the Lone Star State, the Stars arrived to play the Dallas Stars Elite at the NHL Dallas Stars’ practice rink.

“Playing in the Dallas Stars rink, there’s a star on the Texas banner, so we knew that it was going to come down to us,” Mid Fairfield goalie Leil Fournier said. “We knew that we could do this.”

“This” was winning their first 16U national championship, doing so as the eighth seed. Mid Fairfield won all three games it played in the NHL team’s practice rink, including the final game 1-0 over the storied Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN) program that had entered the final game with a 5-0 record in the tournament as the fifth seed.

“I like to say that we came in as the underdogs,” Mid Fairfield forward Chloe Obser said. “But we’ll never be the underdogs because we come out on top always. So, we’ll always be the top dogs.”

“I think all of us deep down believed that we had the heart and we could all pull through in these key moments. I think it was heart over talent, and we definitely had the heart.”

The final game came down to two scrambles in the third period. The first resulted in the game’s only goal, by Mid Fairfield’s Brooke Eselunas from in front with 8:04 to play.

Stars coach Bill Maniscalco didn’t even know who scored the goal. 

“I don’t know how it got there but I saw it go in,” he said. 

It was Mid Fairfield’s ninth power-play goal in six games at the tournament, which accounted for half of the Stars’ offensive production at nationals. 

The other scramble came in the final two minutes, when Shattuck-St. Mary’s pulled goalie Morgan Stickney for a sixth skater.

“We don’t get nervous in these kind of scenarios. We’re able to adapt,” Obser said. “It’s quite overwhelming at first, but we’re composed with the puck. We know not to throw it away.”

Fournier made 16 of her 39 saves in the third period, when the Stars also killed a penalty.

“I was on the ice for some PK,” Obser said. “We go over it in practice all the time … I don’t think for one second that we were concerned when we went down a player. We were all very composed, and I think that’s what ultimately led to our success."

The only thing better for a hockey team than a hot goalie is two hot goalies. Fournier finished the tournament with a 1.25 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. Heather Wolff made 35 saves and stopped four of five shootout attempts in the 3-2 win over Chicago Mission (IL) that put the Stars into the final game. Wolff had a 1.44 GAA and .946 save percentage at nationals.

 “Our coach, Bill Maniscalco, the best coach in the nation, says, ‘The only people to be afraid of is ourselves,’” Fournier said. “We really pick each other up and support each other. I think that’s the biggest thing that kept us in the game.”

Obser said the Stars knew they could go all the way after their third game in Texas, which was a 3-2 loss to the top-seeded Minnesota MSP Magazine (MN).

“It was a really tight game. We took a lot of penalties, myself included, and tensions got really high,” Obser said. “Coach Bill really rallied us. I think it was a good confidence boost for our team.” 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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