IRVINE, Calif. — It was a season split up into three acts for the Minnesota Lakers (MN).
The first act was playing together. The second act was splitting up to play with their high school teams. And the third act was reuniting to see what they could do in the playoffs.
Everyone from Minnesota is giving the Lakers a five-star rating and a standing ovation following the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U National Championships.
The Lakers scored twice in the third period, including Sydney Boss Krohn capping a hat trick late, to beat the Valley Jr. Warriors (MA) 4-2 to capture the 2A national championship at the Great Park Ice complex.
“These are some of my best friends that I've known for a while and just coming together and winning something is big, it really means a lot,” said Minnesota’s Jonni Anderson, who snapped a 2-2 tie with 9:06 left in regulation.
That friendship took a hiatus during the high school season as many of the players lined up opposite each other.
“Becoming rivals during the winter and then coming to be best friends was kind of hard and it was a big transition,” Anderson said.
Lakers coach Marit Zelinsky said this was the first season there has been a Tier II team through the state organization.
“I'm so incredibly proud of these girls because we are different than a lot of the other teams here,” Zelinsky said. “We have our season from basically August through September … the fact that they were able to get together and come together as a team is just a huge accomplishment just shows the depth and the talent of this group.”
That depth was challenged by the Warriors. After Minnesota took a 1-0 lead on Boss Krohn’s first conversion just 5:49 into the game, Valley struck back as Megan Carlson and Brooke Carlson scored with 8:09 and 5:58 left in the opening 16 minutes for a 2-1 edge.
It remained that way until Krohn — who had one goal in the first five games of nationals — found the back of the net for the second time, tying the game with 2:57 remaining in the second period. After Anderson’s go-ahead goal, Krohn capped her hat trick by scoring an unassisted goal with 10 seconds to go.
Zelinsky said she has emphasized the team scoring “gritty” goals and it only seemed fitting that Anderson’s go-ahead conversion came from a scramble in front of the net.
“Gritty goals are something that we've relied on this tournament,” Anderson said.
“She's a really good player, really positive around the rink and in the locker room and on the bench,” Zelinsky said of Anderson. “She just gets it done.”
Both teams entered the championship game undefeated at 5-0 in the tournament and in similar style, with Minnesota outscoring its foes 18-5 and Valley 22-5 thanks to balance throughout the lineup.
“It's fun to run into teams that have the same amount of speed as we do,” Zelinsky said. “It was a good back-and-forth game. We stuck to our game plan and just played really hard, short shifts and kept pounding them. They were really good on the transition, but we just came back and battled hard.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.