SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As the 2007 USA Hockey 14 & Under National Championship tournament unfolded this week, Kendall Coyne's name became a familiar one for Team Illinois.
Not even having seven second-period penalties could slow down the Central District champions or their top player at the event.
Coyne’s power play goal just seconds into the second period proved to be all the offense Team Illinois would need, en route to a 4-0 victory against Honeybaked to claim USA Hockey's National Championship at Logitech Ice Center.
Shortly after Coyne’s goal, though, Team Illinois seemed to be holding a team meeting in its own penalty box. Illinois had to overcome two separate five-on-three advantages by Honeybaked, the Michigan District champions, who struggled against Illinois’ swarming defense all game, even when playing with a numbers advantage.
“We’ve struggled with penalties throughout the entire tournament,” Illinois coach Emily Pemrick said.
Still, the Illinois defense refused to buckle under the constant pressure. It helped that goaltender Stephanie Lemke was brilliant in net, turning away shot after shot whenever Honeybaked managed to slip past the Illinois defense.
“She’s phenomenal,” Pemrick said of her net minder. “Nothing seems to faze her.”
Lemke’s work between the pipes notwithstanding, Illinois teetered on the brink of misfortune throughout most of the second period.
“This team really knows how to fight through adversity,” Pemrick said. “This is a very hardworking team.”
Adversity surrounded the Illinois team from the very start of the season, added Pemrick.
“The first tournament we played, we lost just about every game,” Pemrick recalled.
By November, though, the team had rebounded and went on a late-season drive to qualify for Nationals.
“We finally all got on the same page and got it together,” Pemrick said.
Illinois swept its way through the round robin by a combined 16-2 score before brushing aside Montgomery, 5-1, in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Illinois turned away Syracuse, 4-2, in Saturday evening’s semifinals to advance to the title game.
Honeybaked’s unlikely journey to the tournament title game began with back-to-back losses to Assabet Valley and Syracuse, before a 4-0 win against San Jose advanced the team into Saturday’s quarterfinals. Honeybaked downed Connecticut, 3-0, in the quarterfinals before defeating Assabet Valley, 2-1, in the semifinals.
In the finale, Illinois dominated the action in the opening period against Honeybaked, failing to convert on its own five-on-three advantage when two Honeybaked players were called for simultaneous penalties early in the period.
After escaping the second period with its one-goal lead intact, Illinois finally went back on the offensive and attacked the Honeybaked net.
Jocelyn Simpson scored another power play goal for Illinois at the 2:39 mark for a 2-0 advantage --Simpson’s ninth goal of the tournament, which at that point tied her with Coyne for the overall tournament lead.
Coyne would regain her lead with an empty-net goal with just 37 seconds remaining before picking up her third point of the game by assisting on Carolyn Fuwa’s goal with 10 seconds left to seal the victory for Illinois.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.