The St. Louis Lady Blues had comeback wins in nearly every game they won at the USA Hockey Tier I 12 & Under National Championship, and they almost did it again on Sunday.
But in the end, the East Coast Wizards wouldn’t allow another remarkable comeback to happen.
The Wizards finished off a dominant run through the Tier I 12-U field, completing a perfect 6-0 record and holding off the Lady Blues 3-1 in the championship game at the Cornerstone Community Center in Green Bay.
The championship was the first USA Hockey National title for the Wizards’ 12-U program, a moment coach Cliff Abrecht said he and his players will cherish for years to come.
“This is the first time the program has won a national championship and we emphasize that this is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Abrecht said. “It’s not something that happens every year. It’s something that you work for and you hope you get the chance to compete for a national championship and to be in the finals is even better. Winning it is clearly something that these girls will remember for the rest of their lives.”
East Coast appeared to have the title all but sewn up with a 2-0 lead and less than three minutes left in the third period. However, the Lady Blues had one last comeback attempt in them.
Jincy Dunne, who led St. Louis with six goals in the tournament, put home a backhand with 2:41 left to pull the Lady Blues within 2-1. Things got even more interesting as the Wizards were called for a hold with 1:53 remaining to give St. Louis a power play and a chance to tie it up.
But East Coast and goalie Katie Burt were able to avoid a couple of close calls and seal the win with a shorthanded, empty-net goal by Jacqueline Diffey with 25.6 seconds remaining.
“It’s the first time the Wizards have won the championship for nationals … so it’s a really big (thrill) for us to win it,” Wizards forward Adriana Rossini said. “It felt great to win it, to know that you were the best in the nation, to know that you beat every other team that you could.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Wizards threw off their gear in celebration and piled on Burt, who allowed just four goals on 106 shots over the tournament and made 22 saves on 23 shots in the title game.
“We know that defense and goaltending is the key to championships, and that’s one of the things we emphasized all year,” Abrecht said. “Katie Burt is an outstanding goalie, so it’s always good to know that if you have some breakdowns that Katie’s there to stop it for us.”
Rebecca Gilmore got the Wizards on the board first with a goal at the 6:52 mark in the second period.
Just before the end of the second period, some crisp passing and a nice setup from Diffey got Rossini an open look at the net, which she buried with just 5.3 seconds to go in the second. That gave East Coast some breathing room and turned out to be important given the way the third period unfolded.
“We always talked about the last minute of the (period) on either side, defensive or offensive, they’re turning points of the game, so that’s great to get a goal like that, second goal at the end of the period,” Abrecht said. “It was a great passing play between that line and Adriana did a nice job of finishing that off.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 12 & Under