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Shattuck wins rubber match with Little Caesars, grabs first Tier I 16-U National title

By Aaron Wallender , 04/01/10, 11:00AM MDT


After all their battles earlier this season, it was only fitting that Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Little Caesars met in the title game of the USA Hockey Tier I 16 & Under National Championship.

The Sabres and Little Caesars had gone 2-2-2 against each other in their previous six meetings this season, but this one wasn’t as tightly contested as the rest of their matchups. Shattuck pulled away for a 4-1 victory at the Cornerstone Community Center on Sunday in Green Bay, Wis.

“When it comes down to the rubber match, you want it to be in this type of atmosphere and we pulled through and did it,” Shattuck first-year coach Dan Koch said. “I felt like we’ve never played our best game against them and that’s what I told the girls beforehand.

“If we came out and played the way we were capable of, we knew we’d be successful. They came out and they really played hard, but most of all they played smart.”

For the first period and a half, it looked as though this one would come right down to the wire, much like most of their prior meetings.

After a scoreless first period, Shattuck’s Alexis Crossley got the Sabres on the board first 4:17 into the second period. But Little Caesars answered with an Alyssa West goal just 1:29 later for a 1-1 tie.

“They came back right away after the first goal and tied it up, so I was thinking, ‘Here we go — overtime again,’” Koch said.

But that’s when the tide turned in Shattuck’s favor for good. Stephanie Lemieux knocked in a goal 11:12 into the second period — as proud father Mario Lemieux looked on from behind the plexiglass — and then Wisconsin native Kim Drake scored on the power play at the 15:39 mark to give the Sabres some welcome breathing room.

“It was really nice to have a comfortable win, but coming out we didn’t know what was going to happen because we’ve battled back and forth,” Shattuck goalie Jorie Walters said. “But once we got that third goal after they scored, it just kind of opened it all up for us and we had it in our hands.”

Lemieux added another power-play goal at 7:52 into the third period to put some icing on the cake. Walters made the lead stand up as she had all tournament long. She began by shutting down Little Caesars during a comeback shootout victory by Shattuck in the first game of the preliminaries. It ended with a National Championship.

“Defense was phenomenal. They blocked several shots,” said Walters, who had 17 saves in the championship game. “The defense just played on their toes all weekend and I came up a couple times when shots got through. But the defense, I owe a lot to them, because they played real strong in the slot.”

Koch left an assistant coaching position with the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team to take the job at Shattuck this season. The Madison native couldn’t have imagined a better ending to the season.

“This felt as good, if not better, than any of the national championships from Wisconsin,” Koch said. “For 14-, 15-, 16-year-old girls to put that much effort into something for a season that’s about a month longer than the college season is — that’s remarkable. … I’m very proud of them and I’m glad they were rewarded for their efforts.”

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.