McKINNEY, Texas -- Megan Kubichek knew she was in a lot of pain, but she was determined not to let her season end sitting on the bench.
With about seven minutes remaining in the USA Hockey Tier II 14-and-Under National Championship game, in which her Alaska Icebreakers team was tied 1-1 with the Buffalo Regals, Kubichek’s stick got stuck in the boards and the butt-end jammed her in the stomach, just below the ribs, leaving her writhing on the ice in pain for several minutes.
But after a little recovery time on the bench, Kubichek declared that she was ready, got back on the ice and wound up scoring the game-winning goal with just 1:53 left to clinch the title.
“I don’t know, it could be some internal bleeding, but I’d trade that for a game-winning goal every day,” said Kubichek, who was sporting a raised red welt the size of a puck after the game. “It hurt really bad but I did not want to be sitting on that bench, I wanted to get out there.”
Added Icebreakers coach Luther Brice: “She rested there for a little bit, basically took a stick in the gut from getting it stuck in the wall there, but as soon as she said she was ready, we got her back out on the ice, and I’m glad we did.”
As for her dramatic game-winner, her second goal of the tournament, Kubichek displayed impressive patience with the puck after picking up a rebound in front of Buffalo goalie Maddy Utz, then lifted a point-blank wrist shot into the upper right corner.
“It’s all just a blur,” she said of the winner. “But I do remember, Dynnea [Bezona] took a shot and there was a rebound, and I saw the goalie was leaving her upper shoulder open and I thought, ‘I can do this, I’ve done this so many times before in practice,’ and so I just went for it and I got it.”
Combined with a first period goal by Mackenzie Sylvester and 17 saves from Sabrina Nichols, victory was sweet for the Icebreakers.
“It’s a great feeling,” acknowledged Brice, whose squad finished with just one defeat, a 3-2 setback to the Montgomery Blue Devils in round-robin play. “It was our goal from the beginning of the season, and having made the game was great, but the girls really dug deep and wanted to win it this year. It was very exciting, right down to the wire today with two minutes to go. It seems like this whole tournament, it’s been a lot of close games all the way through it.”
“It feels amazing, the feeling of winning and knowing that you’ve worked your hardest and that it paid off in the end,” added Kubichek. “Starting eight months ago, we’ve been working up to this moment and this game, and we did it. We worked our butts off and it just feels great.”
For Buffalo, which overcame multiple obstacles en route to the New York state championships just to qualify for nationals, the thrilling final game capped off their silver medal-winning season nicely.
“It’s not disappointing at all. The girls played hard, we’ve never been more proud of them,” said Regals coach Tom Ruggiero. “The other team scored one more goal than us, late, and we were right there. We had some good looks, the girls should be happy, their heads should be held high. That was fantastic. I’ve never needed the scoreboard to know how well we played or if we were the better team. Tomorrow, we win this game, I think.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.