IRVINE, Calif. — The Adirondack Northstars (NY) call upstate New York home. They are much closer to the hockey mecca of Montreal than they are to the Big Apple, and they are a small program seeking to make their mark.
Well, they certainly did that on Championship Monday at the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U National Championships.
Adirondack rode two goals from Emily Macaulay and a tough defense to a 2-1 victory over Team Colorado (CO) in the 1A championship game at the Great Park Ice complex.
It is the program’s first national title.
“We started out with really small [numbers on the roster] and the season started really slow,” Northstars coach Ben Marcantonio said. “And by the end of all this, the girls came together, they battled for each other. But as an organization, this is an absolutely monumental occasion.”
Macaulay was involved in a little bit of everything.
“Some pretty big emotions,” Macaulay said with a voice hoarse from all the screaming throughout the game. “I mean, getting two goals and just seeing everyone playing together and getting a misconduct [late in the second period], that's crazy. But just seeing how the team came together and stayed in the game, that's a big part of our team.”
Macaulay opened the scoring at the 5:29 mark of the first period with an unassisted goal, then made it 2-0 just 25 seconds into the second period, with Emerson Lochner-Fehl and Piper Newman setting up Macaulay’s seventh goal of the tournament.
That was enough offense for a stingy Adirondack defense, but not without some third-period dramatics.
Colorado came out in the third period determined to cut its deficit. It nearly doubled its shot total from the first two periods, putting nine pucks on net compared to just two for the Northstars. Benefiting from another major penalty and an ensuing minor by the Northstars, Colorado was unable to capitalize. However, Colorado did pull within 2-1 with 3:36 remaining on Leena Kelly’s second goal of the tournament.
“If we just played our system, if we just played our game and kept our head really, that's the biggest thing,” Marcantonio said of his thoughts during that crucial third-period stretch. “The girls kept their heads about them. They kept their mindset of, 'Hey, we're just going to play our game. We're not going to back down. We're not going to sit there and give in. We're going to make sure we go out and we play what we know.'”
Netminder Aurora Graham-Hayes, who wasn’t on the roster to begin the season, finished with 18 saves.
“We've definitely strengthened our defense over the past month and a half,” Marcantonio said. “That's really what wins championships. It's those little tiny things, those little games that you have every single day [in practice]. The girls put the work in and the effort all year long and it shows right here.”
Adirondack finished the tournament 6-0, outscoring its opponents 29-9. With Macaulay’s two goals, she finished with a tournament-high 13 points.
“The first one was kind of surprising because I wasn't even looking at the net,” Macaulay said of her two-goal game. “It just kind of went in. And then the second one, it was a really good play by Morgan Oliver. She got their girl down and then just found the puck. So I picked it up and shot it and it kind of just went in. I mean, it was kind of just lucky.”
Luck or skill, it came at the end of a long season of practice and road trips.
“She's been a key contributor all year long,” Ben Marcantonio said of Macauley. “It's a great support system around each individual girl. It's all about team, it's not the individual accolades. And if you talk to Emily, she will say the same thing to you.”
Marcantonio was greeted by a handful of supporters after leaving the ice and hitting the tunnel to the locker room. He was gladly doused by a bunch of water bottles, which left him wet and cold following a hard-fought game. But he will take it.
“I feel like I'm on cloud nine,” Marcantonio said. “Like it's not real.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.