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Hosting nationals brings additional challenges for Alliance 16U girls

By John Trachina, 03/30/12, 9:45AM MDT


FRISCO, Texas -- Most teams have to win state or district championships to qualify for a spot in the USA Hockey’s National Championships, so they typically arrive at the national tournament with the confidence and pride of having earned their way there.

And while the Alliance Bulldogs 16-and-Under team has enjoyed a strong season overall, serving as Tier II girls’ tournament host dilutes that inherent excitement a bit because they knew they would be here, playing on their home ice, all along.

“As far as the preparation with hosting the tournament, I guess we know that we are going to be in the tournament for sure, right?” noted Alliance U16 coach David Horn. “The other teams have to earn their spot here, battle it out, at the state level or at the district level, just to come here, where we knew that we were going to be hosting it a year-and-a-half in advance, so it’s a little bit different for sure.”

Horn pointed out that a number of his players have already experienced the thrill of playing in a national tournament before, so he believed they did recognize just how special it is to be playing at this level, even if they didn’t have to travel anywhere.

“I think the majority of the girls were on the U14 team last year,” Horn said. “A good eight or nine of them played in the tournament last year, so they’re familiar with having to earn the right, by winning the Rocky Mountain District, to go to nationals.

“A few girls, this is their first opportunity for a national tournament. They may not realize it. A lot of times, you don’t realize it until it’s all over with, and in a few years and you never go back again, just how special it really is to be able to go to a national tournament.” 

Like several other high-level girls’ teams gathered in the Dallas suburbs this week for the Tier II girls’ national tournaments this weekend, Horn acknowledged that it was sometimes difficult to find appropriate competition for his team to face-off against during the season.

“Being here in Dallas, you don’t get to play girls’ teams too frequently, right?” said Horn, whose team dropped its tournament opener 2-1 to the East Coast Wizards Wednesday. “The only time that we played girls’ teams throughout the year was when we went out to Connecticut for the Connecticut Polar Bears tournament, between Christmas and New Year’s, and then when we went up to Toronto in early March.

“So we’ve played only eight or nine games this whole season against girls’ teams. Otherwise, we’re playing against boys’ teams here in the Dallas area, in Texas, Oklahoma.”

That required a bit of an adjustment for his team, going from playing against boys’ teams back to girls.’ 

“It’s a little bit different playing a boys’ game than a girls’ game,” Horn said. “I think at first, our girls were surprised at how physical other girls are. In the Northeast and up in Canada, I think [officials] allow them to be a lot more physical than they do down here in the Dallas area.”

Regarding his club’s tournament-opening loss, Horn sounded like an NHL coach when noting how important being able to score “ugly goals” is to winning at this level.

“Things didn’t go too well for us early, a couple bad bounces, pucks going off of skates and into our net,” he said of the 2-0 first period hole his team found itself in. “The goals were not the prettiest goals, on both sides, right? That’s just sort of the way it is.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.