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Stellar Goaltending Duo Led the Vegas Junior Golden Knights to Girls Tier II 14U 1A National Title

By Trent Singer, 04/07/24, 1:45PM MDT


Olivia Frasso and Nicolette Gentile only allowed four goals in the tournament

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a game in which they struggled to sustain offense, the Vegas Junior Golden Knights (NV) needed just one big shot to bask in championship glory.

Lizabeth Smith broke loose and began the celebration for the Knights.

With 10:32 remaining in overtime of the 1A title game, the eighth grade forward dashed to the goal and ripped a shot into the net, sending her Vegas teammates into a raucous celebration and sealing a 1-0 victory over Team South Dakota (SD) in the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U 1A National Championship Sunday afternoon at the Scheels IcePlex.

“It’s incredible,” Vegas coach Gordie Mark said as he tried to hold back his tears. “I’ve won a Calder Cup. I’ve won the WHL championship as a player. This is right up there with those because nobody thought we could do it.

“We’re not the biggest. We’re not the strongest. We’re not the most skilled, but we work hard, maybe harder than anyone. We play really well in our D-zone and have two of the best goalies in the tournament on our team, and if you’ve got goaltending, you’ve got a chance.”

The win capped a stellar tournament performance for Knights goaltender Olivia Frasso, who notched 23 saves to record her second shutout of the tournament. 

Frasso started four of the team’s six games, finishing with a 0.49 goals against average and .977 save percentage, while her teammate in goal, Nicolette Gentile, had a 1-1 record in two starts during the tournament, finishing with a 1.02 GAA and .964 save percentage.

“She was unbelievable,” Mark said about Frasso. “Our other goalie, too, she got us into the playoffs. She played really well and shut these girls out in the pool play games. That’s no easy task.

“I’ve got a 1A and a 1B. They’re both capable of being anybody’s No. 1.”

It was all defense in the opening period, much of which was played in the neutral zone with very few scoring opportunities at the net. Each team notched two shots on goal before South Dakota found its offensive rhythm in the second frame.

The bigger-bodied South Dakota team out shot the Knights 23-10, including 10-5 in the second period. However, Vegas kept things close by limiting good chances around the goal, sending both teams into the second intermission tied at 0-0.

“We go out there, and we’re trying to play a style of hockey that can be pretty simple,” South Dakota coach Austin Koenig said. “It’s also something that takes a lot of work to be able to do, and they executed it well.

“Throughout the entire tournament, they bought in, and it worked. We just didn’t get the puck bounces that we needed to go our way offensively, but I’m extremely proud of the way they played defensively in this game.”

In the opening minutes of the third, the puck bounced off the end boards and landed on the stick of South Dakota’s Lily Gorra, but Frasso denied Gorra’s shot attempt and covered the puck to avoid further danger.

With a little more than five minutes remaining in the period, Frasso made another stellar save when she robbed South Dakota’s Taylor Sorben on a shot from the high slot, catching the puck with her glove to not allow a rebound.

In overtime, South Dakota’s Callie Pederson was whistled for the game’s only penalty with 13:21 to play, but the Knights were unable to score on the power play.

South Dakota goalie Moriah Lincoln finished with nine saves before Smith provided the game-winning heroics.

“There was a little puck bounce, and she was coming down the wing,” Mark said about the game-winner. “I saw a lot of room far side, low. She hits that shot all the time in practice, so I was hopeful she’d just get it off before she got a stick on it.

“She didn’t know it went in.”

Throughout the Knights’ six games in the tournament, Smith led the way with six points. She was one of three Vegas players to score three goals, and she led the team with three helpers.

“Honestly, ending on a win like this, there’s no other feeling,” Smith said. “For me, it clicked when they were playing the national anthem on the ice. I was like, ‘This is the national game. We can win this.’

“Going into overtime is scary, but that’s the best way to do it.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.