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Martin’s short-handed goals propel Mass. Spitfires to Tier II 16-U National title

By Larry O'Connor, 04/01/10, 11:45AM MDT


Two short-handed goals put the Massaschusetts Spitfires 16 & Under girls’ team in the driver’s seat, but the Mid Fairfield Stars from Connecticut didn’t relinquish the wheel without a fight.

The Spitfires staved off a spirited Stars comeback, beating Mid Fairfield 4-2 on Sunday to capture the USA Hockey Tier II 16-U National Championship at Suburban Ice in East Lansing, Mich.

Defenseman Erin Martin scored three of her team’s four goals, including two that came while down a player. Martin’s third goal with 4:13 left put the lid on Mid Fairfield’s comeback bid.

“I’m not typically a goal scorer,” said Martin, who finished with the tournament with 12 points on nine goals and two assists.

Countered Spitfires coach Kim Knox: “She has her moments. I’d say she is one of my kids who can put it in the net.”

Goals by the Stars’ Hannah Jeffrey and Elizabeth Wulf erased Massachusetts’ commanding three-goal advantage and turned the championship final into a taut encounter.

Jeffrey’s goal came during a two-man advantage with Kathryn Davis (tripping) and Martin (slashing) in the penalty box. Samantha Blicht and Wulf assisted on the goal, which came with 4:45 left in the second period.

Massachusetts had just killed off another penalty when Wulf struck for Mid Fairfield’s second goal. Meghen Spezzano assisted on the marker at 4:55 of the third period that closed the gap to 3-2.

“You always fear the two-goal lead,” Knox said. “Coming back 3-1 and having them score, it’s crucial whoever gets the next goal. It can change a game.

“You just tell your kids to dig deep and play the way they know how.”

After Martin restored the Spitfires’ two-goal lead to 4-2, the Stars failed to convert on a power-play chance with 3:44 left. Wulf had the best scoring opportunity, firing wide after breaking in alone on Massachusetts goalie Victoria Hanson with 2:13 left.

Mid Fairfield was 1-for-6 on the power play, while Massachusetts went 1-for-5. Surrendering back-to-back shorthanded goals couldn’t deflate the Stars.

“We’ve been in tough positions before,” Stars coach Jeff Beck said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall. It’s not like we coasted all season. They are very mature hockey players with high IQs.”

Martin’s first short-handed tally came after she stole the puck at the blue line and then bore down on Mid Fairfield netminder Marisa McCann. With a quick deke, Martin neatly slipped the puck into the net. The unassisted goal came 6:10 into the game.

Amy Dugan assisted on Martin’s second short-handed goal, which came with 30 seconds left in the first period.

“They were game-changers,” Knox said of the short-handed tallies. “They were bonus goals. You are just hoping you can just kill them off, but the fact she could go down and put them into the net short-handed just added to our momentum.

“We have a very good penalty kill unit. A lot of times they will just kill it off in the corner. But when they have their moments, they will take advantage of them.”

Massachusetts advanced to the championship game after derailing the New Jersey Quarry Cats 7-0 in Saturday’s semifinals. The Spitfires also dispatched the Colorado Selects 10-0 in the quarterfinal. The Spitfires went 3-0 in pool play, including a 5-1 victory over Mid Fairfield.

“I think the kids worked hard in every game,” Knox said. “They showed a lot of character and they earned everything they got.”

Mid Fairfield’s National tournament run included a 4-3 triumph over rival the Connecticut Polar Bears in pool play. The Stars beat the Michigan Icebreakers 5-2 in the quarterfinals and the Wisconsin Jr. Badgers 6-3 in the semifinals to advance.

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.