WOODSTOCK, Vt. — If the Connecticut Ice Cats 14-U Tier II team doesn’t already know the way to San Jose, it’s time to find out.
The Ice Cats won five games without a loss at the New England Tier II district tournament and left Union Arena in Woodstock, Vt., with the championship trophy. They will soon be headed to the USA Hockey National Championships at The Shark Tank in San Jose, Calif.
The Ice Cats dominated the Nashua (NH) Panthers in the finals, 5-1. The teams had met in the opening round and, despite the heroics of Panther goalie Jasmine Mucci, the Ice Cats prevailed 1-0 on Catherine Granito’s goal.
In the first five periods of the two games against Nashua, the Ice Cats limited the Panthers to four shots on goal.
“Our defense, which includes Chandler Kirby, Mia Carroll, Lily Von Stade and Kate DeFrino, is the backbone of our club,” coach Jamie Tropsa said. “We’d like to win all of our games 1-0.”
Goalies Brooke Jonsson and Emily Gianunzio split time in the net for Connecticut, sometimes during the same game. Jonsson pitched the opening game shutout. Gianunzio made seven saves to shut out the Casco Bay Mariners of Maine. The duo had 12 combined saves in the Ice Cats’ 3-2 semifinal win against the Maine Gladiators.
In the finals, Marissa Baker and Brooke Deane scored 13 seconds apart in the first period for a 2-0 lead. Ice Cats standout Catherine Granito (65 points as a New Canaan High School freshman) nearly made it 3-0 seconds later, but Mucci snagged her snap shot at the last instant.
Baker’s opening goal came while planted in the mid-slot. She received the puck from Hannah McLane. Emma Stevens was also credited with an assist. Baker was the Ice Cats’ leading scorer throughout the weekend with four goals and an assist.
Deane scored off the ensuing faceoff with assists from Stevens and DeFrino.
Nashua broke into the scoring column with Krista Ferrari’s goal at 13:25 of the first period. Ferrari broke in down the left wing and stepped to the net.
“It rolled off the goalie’s shoulder and into the net,” she said.
Connecticut took a 3-1 lead at 14:11 of the middle period. Granito got to a bouncing puck with two powerful strides with her back to the net, wheeled and scored. DeFrino assisted on the play. The Ice Cats’ fourth goal, by Brooke Deane, was set up by a blue-ribbon diagonal pass down to the far post by DeFrino. McLane completed the scoring with an empty net goal.
McLane, one of four Damien High School Blue Wave athletes on the team along with Kirby Baker and Katie Zaro, scored two goals on rebounds in Connecticut’s 3-2 semifinal win.
“We have a lot of multi-sports players on the team — mostly field hockey and lacrosse,” she said. “I started playing hockey in the fifth grade, but most of my teammates started earlier.
“We beat the Polar Bears 4-0 to win the state championship — to win here at regionals would be great.”
“This is a real nice bunch of kids,” coach Tropsa said. “This will be the third trip to nationals for some of them if they go again. We’re split about 50-50 between eighth and ninth graders. This group has been through some tough losses, but you’ve got to learn how to deal with it. I’m proud of all of them.”
Jessica Zimmerman, Jennifer Caruso, and Kerry Stevens assisted coach Tropsa. Other players on the championship squad are Anna Rasmussen, Katherine Somerby, Reilly Reed, Katie Zaro, Bella Marciano, Paige Wikman and Meghan Keating.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.