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Alliance Bulldogs pull of comeback with OT thriller against Alaska All-Stars for 19-U Tier II title

By Bruce Bourquin, 04/03/11, 11:45AM MDT


The Alaska All-Stars could not stay out of the penalty box on Sunday in the championship game of the USA Hockey Girls 19-Under Tier II National Championships at The Rinks Anaheim ICE.

Thanks in part to that unfortunate fact, the Alliance Bulldogs from Texas could not stop scoring. The Alliance scored three straight goals, including the game-winner by center Miranda Bell with 5:43 left in overtime, for a thrilling 3-2 victory.

Bell scored two goals. She also had a game-tying hard wrist shot that came with just 26 seconds left in the second period. Both of them were assisted by right wing Hannah Hoenshell, who utilized her superior speed to find Bell, whose final goal ignited a game-ending mob scene behind the net.

“It was a tip-in to the five-hole,” Bell said. “Words can’t describe it. Hannah attacked me and that’s when I knew it went in.”

Bulldogs captain and defenseman Carrie Atkinson set up the game-winner. She kept the puck onside by outworking an Alaska player at the blue line.

Hoenshell collected a pass, charged toward the net, and found Bell, who slid it past goaltender Nicole Mrugala, who played a mighty game and made 27 saves. Mrugala afterward was seen sobbing into her father’s chest, an emotionally gut-wrenching thing to watch.

Alliance coach Stan Tugolukov’s squad had pulled off a 5-4 win in Saturday’s semifinals in double-overtime over the Vermont 802 Stars. Hoenshell’s penalty shot was the difference in the second overtime session.

“We knew it was not going to be easy,” Tugolukov said. “This was one of the best teams we played. We had to stay in the game, play blue-collar hockey. If we did that, we’ll be in good shape. This gives our girls the experience of their lives. It was about grinding it out. Our skills give us an opportunity to be good on the power play. We capitalized, everyone stayed in it for each other.”

Alaska was caught for 13 penalties and Alliance went 3-for-12 on power plays. Hoenshell scored the Alliance’s first goal on the power play with 2:53 left in the second period on a hard wrister from the right side. The Alliance, meanwhile, had just four penalties.

“It was absolutely tough,” All-Stars coach David McCarrey said. “We felt the standard of play wasn’t always equal on both sides.”

Alaska took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Brianne Bohn scored a shorthanded goal on an assist from Zoe Hickel just 1:39 into the game. Hickel also assisted on Kelsey Stanfill’s goal with 11:32 left in the second period. Hickel skated all the way around from right to left, feeding Stanfill on a pretty wraparound play.

“We’ve learned to overcome adversity,” McCarrey said. “The father of one of our players had suffered a massive heart attack. The last time she saw her father was on an operating table. We’ve risen to every challenge, whether it was playing other girls tough or adults not wanting us to be successful.”

Alliance goaltender Micaela Ross made 25 saves. The Alliance could not score on two 5-on-3 opportunities, and at one point was 1-of-7 on the power play.

“A lot of our teammates are going to be graduating,” Bell said. “It was good to end it with a win.”

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.