Greg Carter might downplay it, but this victory had to be especially sweet for him and his Team Pittsburgh 14 & Under players.
That’s because Carter and Team Pittsburgh finished off a remarkable run through the USA Hockey National Championship with a convincing 5-1 win over defending champion Assabet Valley in the Tier I 14-U final on Sunday at the Cornerstone Community Center in Green Bay, Wis.
The win had a little extra significance for Carter, who is in his first year with Team Pittsburgh after coaching the 14- and 15-year-olds for the last nine seasons at Assabet Valley.
“All Nationals are special, but yeah it’s nice to play against them. They’re a great team,” Carter said. “I’m glad that we played them because they were definitely one of the top teams in the country and you’ve got to go through everybody, and once you go through everybody, it’s well worth it.”
This battle between two of the nation’s top teams was much more one-sided than expected. Pittsburgh jumped all over Assabet, scoring three goals in the first 9:30 of the first period and then clamping down on the Assabet attack en route a relatively easy victory.
“It’s huge. (The three goals) sets the momentum, gets the butterflies out and they were just ready to go,” Carter said.
What made Pittsburgh’s run to the championship even more impressive is the way it dominated its opponents throughout the week. Pittsburgh outscored its foes 15-2 in quarters, semis and finals, including a 5-1 rout of Honeybaked, which had defeated Pittsburgh four straight times in the regular season.
“The kids worked hard all year starting in September. We’ve had some adversity through the year, but they’ve kept with the game plan, really came together as a team and peaked at the right time,” Carter said. “We played really well this whole weekend.
“They’re a tight-knit group and they all bought into supporting each other, playing team defense and attacking the net. It’s a really close-knit group of girls and they just came together.”
Pittsburgh used a balanced attack all tournament and Sunday was no exception. Five different players scored for Pittsburgh, which was able to roll fresh lines all tournament and had a 28-6 scoring edge over its six games.
Center Katie Matheny, in just her second year in the Pittsburgh program, led the 14-U field with nine points and seven goals, including a goal in the third period in the championship game that all but put the game out of reach.
“Last year was my year (with Pittsburgh) and we lost in the quarterfinals, so I never knew what it was like,” Matheny said. “I know they knew what it was like to be in the championship game, but it feels great. … It was amazing, like nothing I’ve ever felt.”
Assabet Valley’s lone bright spot in the title game came from Alexandria Laing, who got her team back into it with a goal at the 25.6-second mark of the first period. That was as close as Assabet would get, however.
Taylor Cestra made 15 saves on 16 shots for Pittsburgh in the win.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 14 & Under