McKINNEY, Texas -- After winning the USA Hockey Tier II National Championship last season, the Alliance Bulldogs knew they would be back in 2012 as tournament hosts, but the 19-and-Under team from Irving, Texas, made sure to prove that it not only deserved to be there, but that it could win it again.
Powered by two goals from Michelle Stock and three assists by Haley Breedlove, Alliance rolled to a convincing 5-2 victory over the Colorado Tigers Elite Prep squad Sunday afternoon to fulfill their season-long goal and repeat as champions on home ice.
“We always say it’s really tough to get to the top, but it’s probably twice as hard to accomplish it two years in a row,” Alliance coach Stan Tugolukov said. “We got lucky; we worked really hard to make it happen, and I think that was our reward for working really hard through the whole season. I’m real happy for the girls to accomplish that goal.”
Despite falling behind 1-0 just 35 seconds into the opening period on a goal by Colorado’s Brooke Benton, the Bulldogs, backed by a raucous, jam-packed arena full of friends and family, charged back into it.
After Stock’s second goal put the Alliance up 3-1, the Tigers had a 5-on-3 power play for a full 1:38 late in the second period, but were unable to capitalize, and Alliance never looked back.
“It wasn’t easy for us, because we were down a goal right away, but I’m proud of the girls; they didn’t give up,” said Tugolukov, whose club won its three playoff-round games by a combined score of 18-5. “We were trying to find luck in the offensive end and it paid off. I think we displayed our skills in the right time and right place and I’m happy that happened. We showed a lot of character.”
“It was tough in the beginning. They got the first goal, and then we just came back and that was the most amazing feeling,” added Alliance defenseman Carrie Atkinson, whose fourth goal of the tournament gave the Alliance a 2-1 lead on a power play early in the second period. “That [5-on-3] was impossible, that was so tough, but I love those because I love the challenge. It’s like so exciting; I can’t even explain it, I love it.”
For Colorado, despite the defeat, finishing as tournament runners-up was something to be proud of.
“I don’t think it’s disappointing — last year when we played the Bulldogs, I think they beat us 12-0,” noted Tigers coach Rich Furia, whose squad advanced to the final with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Team Alaska in the semifinal Saturday. “We’re still in a rebuilding mode. Two years ago, this program was still playing rec hockey, so we brought them a long way.
“Boy, if we could have kept out of the box a little bit, we had a real chance at this game, so I’m not disappointed at all. This team is going to be back here next year and we’re going to finish the job.”
Based on the crowd support Alliance enjoyed in the title game, it was evident that the Bulldogs thrived with the home ice advantage.
“The place was packed, and that makes it a lot of fun,” said Tugolukov. “Obviously, there’s a little pressure because the girls wanted to play their very best in front of their parents and friends and peers from school.”
“Friends come and support, which is the best feeling ever,” Atkinson said of remaining at home for the nationals. “They make signs for you and your family can be there for you. It was great.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 19 & Under