McKINNEY, Texas -- They felt like they let one championship slip away already, and they are determined not to have that happen again.
Following a dramatic 4-3 shootout victory in their first contest of the Tier II USA Hockey National Championships taking place in the Dallas suburbs, the East Coast Wizards girls’ 14-and-Under squad is off to a good start.
But they still think about what happened 17 days earlier. After defeating the Minuteman Lady Flames 2-0 in the Massachusetts semifinal, the Wizards automatically qualified for nationals just by reaching the state final. Then, even though they’d registered a 4-0-2 record in their previous six games, they didn’t have quite the same intensity in the title game, losing 3-1 to the Andover Warriors.
Focused on erasing that memory, the Wizards came out strong against their first opponent at nationals, outshooting the Michigan Icebreakers 30-10, although they still needed a stunning comeback, plus nine rounds of the shootout, to secure an opening-day win Wednesday morning.
“We actually came in second in our state championship, we got a runner-up slot here,” said East Coast coach Mark Lissner of his squad that compiled a 25-8-7 record before arriving in North Texas. “We had a good season during the year, won a tournament back in October. It’s a group of girls that’s been together for a long time. Out of the 16, 15 of them have been with the program at least three years, so it’s good to be able to take a group like that out to nationals.”
“We actually had a very good season,” added forward Sophia Turchetta, who scored two goals in the opening win and then twice more in the shootout. “We didn’t really have many losses throughout the year, and in the state finals, we could have done it, but I think everybody was a little overwhelmed that we’d already made it to nationals, so nobody was really focusing on that game. Hopefully, we can win this [championship]; it’s more important.”
In the opener against the Icebreakers, East Coast trailed 3-2 late in regulation, pulling the goalie for an extra attacker, until Turchetta scored to tie it with just 6.9 seconds remaining.
“It was pretty crazy, very nerve-wracking,” Turchetta said. “To be honest, I thought it was over and I wasn’t even paying attention to the clock, because I was just so scared, and Lyndsey [Smith] just hit me with a good pass and I scored.”
“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve worked on special teams and 6-on-5s both ways in order to try and prepare for those situations, and it paid off today,” Lissner said.
Following a scoreless five-minute overtime period, Turchetta scored on both of her shootout attempts as it went nine rounds before teammate Kristi Anderson scored to win it.
“I was never really good at shootouts,” Turchetta said. “I honestly thought I wouldn’t get put in the shootout, but it kind of just happened.”
For Lissner, it was a good start to a process that everyone hopes will end with the Wizards taking that elusive championship back home to Bedford, Mass.
“I thought we had a pretty good advantage in the shots on goal and the possession of play,” Lissner said. “I hate to see the shootout at the end because it turns a team game into an individual thing, although I know they want to break the ties. It was a good game and we’re glad we got a win under our belt in the first one. It should hopefully take the nerves away.
“It’s just a great group of kids.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 14 & Under