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2007 National Championship - 16U

By Richard Paolinelli, 04/04/07, 5:00PM MDT


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- For an entire year, the bull’s-eye has been on their backs as USA Hockey's Girls 16 & Under National Champion.

After Assabet Valley’s 4-0 victory over the Connecticut Polar Bears in Sunday’s title game of USA Hockey's 2007 National Championship at Logitech Ice Center, they get to carry that target around for one more year.

That suits their head coach Dennis Laing just fine.

“We only had two players back from last year,” Laing said. “But I’ve coached these girls since they were 10 and they are a very talented group of players.”

That talent showed in the complete control Assabet Valley displayed from the opening faceoff until the final buzzer on Sunday.

After Denna Laing had scored what ultimately proved to be the title-winning goal in the opening period, Assabet Valley took command of the game in the second with a three-goal blitz that all but sealed the victory for the Massachusetts District champions.

Casey Pickett scored back-to-back goals and Breanna Morissey closed out the scoring on the final goal of the game with six minutes left in the second period.

The third period saw plenty of near misses for both teams, but the Polar Bears -- who played four overtimes in Saturday night’s 3-2 semifinal victory against Buffalo -- had trouble mounting a sustained attack on the Assabet Valley net.

Kayla Lessard pitched the shutout in goal for AV.

Lessard’s Polar Bears’ counterpart, Leah Hallett, was equally brilliant between the pipes in the losing effort, but it wasn’t enough to deny Assabet Valley’s successful run at a second consecutive title.

And as for an Assabet Valley three-peat?

“Oh no,” Dennis Laing said. “I’m just going to enjoy this one. I don’t want to hang that target on us.”

Laing credited his team’s overall effort in the win. All but a small handful of players will be returning in 2008 to defend Assabet Valley’s crown.

“There are no individuals on this team,” Laing said. “This was truly a team effort today and this is the way they have played all year long.”

Both teams had entered the game undefeated during the week’s play, with Assabet Valley outscoring its three round robin foes by a combined 20-1score. Assabet Valley downed Colorado Select, 4-2, in Saturday’s quarterfinal and then dismissed the Cal Selects, 3-1, in Saturday’s semifinals.

The Polar Bears escaped the round robins at 3-0-0-0, thanks to a 4-3 win on Friday against the Quakers, before edging past Honeybaked, 5-4, in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s semifinal match against Buffalo saw the Polar Bears fall behind, 2-0, in the opening period before mounting a furious rally with two third-period goals to send the game into overtime. Brooke Fernandez finally ended the game at 2:31 of the fourth overtime to send the weary Polar Bears into Sunday’s finale.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.