IRVINE, Calif. — Every once in a while, a group of players sticks together for a few seasons and something special happens.
That is exactly what went on with the Casco Bay Mariners (ME) at the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls’Tier II 16U National Championships.
Jane Flynn scored a pair of goals and the Mariners held on for a 2-1 victory over the Mid Fairfield Stars (CT) in Monday’s 2A championship game at Great Park Ice Arena.
“It's been a journey with this team,” Casco Bay coach Louise Roy said. “A lot of them have been playing together since they were mites and for them to be doing this like with some of their best friends is really amazing. To be able to just kind of help them along as a coach is great.”
Roy has been coaching some of the players on this team for the past few seasons and now has the program’s first national championship. As with most seasons, a championship came with a few bumps in the road.
“It's been back and forth,” Roy said. “Some good games, some bad games, but through it all, this is an extremely gritty team and they always show up when it matters.”
Flynn certainly showed up. She scored her sixth goal of nationals with 8:36 left in the first period, then her seventh 4:55 into the third to make it 2-0.
Natalie Beach notched her third of the tournament 1:37 later to pull Mid Fairfield within one goal, but that was the end of the scoring by either side.
“It's really awesome coming all the way from Maine and we just working really hard for this win,” Flynn said of the 3,000-mile trip from the nation’s most northeastern state to the opposite corner.
It was a similar journey for Mid Fairfield, and that long journey ended against familiar foes. This was the fourth meeting between the teams from the same district, with each team winning twice. For now, the Mariners hold the bragging rights over the Stars.
“We played this team many times before, so we were looking for revenge and [came out] on top,” Flynn said. “We put in our work and came to play.”
Both teams rely on a tough defense and opportunistic offense. Entering Monday’s championship game, Casco Bay had outscored its five opponents 15-8, while Mid Fairfield had done it by a 16-9 margin.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t shots. The Stars held a 30-23 advantage there, including 12-9 in the third period. Brooklyn Goodman stopped 29 shots for the Mariners, while her counterpart at the other end, Noel Schaab, stopped 21.
“Our defense has really stepped up and they've grown from the beginning of the season to the end of this season,” Roy said. “They've gone from being fresh 14U players and then now very experienced, very strong, 16U players.”
Another key to the Mariners’ championship was keeping their composure, especially when things got tight in the third period. Just 1:27 after the Stars scored to pull within 2-1, Casco Bay had to kill off a minor penalty.
“The bounces just seemed to go our way,” Roy said. “There weren't any blatant mistakes; they held it together. We focused a lot on controlling their emotions and making sure that they stayed cool, calm and collected through the whole game instead of getting too riled up or too depressed.”
Flynn stayed cool the most when the pressure was on. She scored a hat trick, including the power-play winner in overtime, for a 4-3 win over the Boston Jr. Eagles (MA) in the semifinals, then made sure the Mariners brought a little hardware home from the championship game.
“I knew we were going to do well,” Roy said. “The team obviously is very talented, but we've had really strong competition along the way. So it's been just amazing to watch the girls all pull it together at the same time.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.