Depleted bench or not, the Massachusetts Spitfires 19 & Under team found itself in a class of its own when the USA Hockey Tier II 19-U National Championship crown was handed out on Sunday.
Only 10 players made the trip, but the Spitfires made the most of their traveling contingent as five different players scored in a 5-1 victory over the Alliance Bulldogs from Texas in the championship game at Suburban Ice in East Lansing, Mich.
Samantha Slotnick, Nicole Haskins, Rebecca Fleming, Amanda Movsessian and Haley Frade all scored for Massachusetts, which built a three-goal lead within eight minutes of the first period. Hannah Hoenshell replied for the Alliance Bulldogs, who remained within striking distance until the third period, when the Spitfires added two goals to the ledger.
Some 20 minor penalties — 11 to Massachusetts and nine to Alliance — hindered the game’s flow. Overlapping penalties resulted in only three power-play chances for each team, with Movsessian scoring the game’s lone man-advantage goal with 7:55 left in the game. Fleming and Frade assisted on the tally, which put the Spitfires up 4-1.
“They executed early in the first period. They came ready to play,” Spitfires coach Larry Movsessian said. “We scored a couple of really nice goals in the first period and it set the tone.”
Haskins connected for the team’s second tally, which came on a wicked wrist shot from the high slot.
“I was just trying to get it on net and it went top shelf,” said Haskins, who finished the National tournament with 11 goals and six assists for 17 points.
Fleming was the team’s leading point-getter with 19 points on 10 goals and nine assists. Fleming was second to Alliance’s Hoenshell, who led all Tier II 19-U scorers with 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.
Alliance’s firepower drew attention during the five-day tournament. The Rocky Mountain District qualifiers outscored opponents 25-3 while going 3-0 in pool games. The Bulldogs then cruised through the playoffs by thumping the Perinton (N.Y) Edge 5-2 in the quarterfinals and routing the Anaheim Lady Ducks 12-0 in the semifinals.
Massachusetts’ tournament foray also left many decimated in its wake. In pool play, the Spitfires went through unscathed while outscoring foes 34-4.
The Spitfires blanked the (West Chester, Pa.) Quakers 8-0 in the quarterfinals and dumped the St. Clair Shores (Mich.) Saintes 6-1 in the semis on Saturday.
The Spitfires play in what is considered a Tier I league with Tier I 19-U National Champion Assabet Valley. The Spitfires qualified for Tier II Nationals as the Massachusetts District runner-up.
The state’s dominance at the first-ever USA Hockey girls’ Tier II National Tournament — Massachusetts teams won all four divisions — was not easy to overlook.
“If we lost every game, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Movsessian said. “I think a lot of the other districts may have it figured out better than Massachusetts with regards to what programs or what teams are designed to be a Tier II team.
“I think a lot of those concerns were based on not being on the winning end. ... It being the first year of the tournament, I think it makes it really hard to understand the dynamics of who gets here. I think that is something USA Hockey has to look at.”
Alliance assistant coach Ty Hennes didn’t think it was an issue.
“That’s why you play the game,” Hennes said. “Tier I ... Tier II. They were playing well. We were playing well.”
Instead, the National Tournament reflected the strides the Dallas-based program has made. The Alliance 14-U team also qualified for the Tier II National Championship.
“Hopefully it’s starting to put Texas girls’ hockey on the map,” Hennes said. “This group has come along way in the six years they’ve been together. For the older ones, they’ve laid the foundation for Texas girls hockey.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.