CICERO, N.Y. — Sports teams tend to take on the personality and work ethic of their hometowns. This is quite true for the Tier I 14-and-Under Syracuse Nationals, coming from a lunch bucket type of town.
“We’re very talented, one through 17, but we don’t have any superstars,” Syracuse coach Mickey Parker said. ”It takes all 17 of them playing together. We have a workmanlike attitude. I don’t have one leader. Everybody has stepped up and led at different times this season.”
The team’s hard work has been on display all season, culminating in a hard fought road to the New York championship that was aided by one tough goal scorer and the determined love of a daughter.
“My girls play with heart and determination,” Parker said. “They refuse to lose. They play old fashion hockey, stick to stick, body to body from goal line to goal line every shift.”
The coaches put together the toughest schedule they could in order to train their team to be prepared in crunch time, which is why the squad’s .500 record can be deceiving.
“Having close games throughout the season helped us prepare for the championship,” Parker said. “We were accustomed to being in tight games because of the style of hockey we play and the tough schedule we played all year. It taught our players to count on each other and play as a team unit, not as individuals. They were battle tested and calm under fire.”
All their victories in the New York state tournament were one-goal wins. None were more impressive than the final game, when the Nationals beat the Buffalo Bisons 1-0 after losing to them in the first game of the tournament, 5-1.
“A lot of times, when teams get to the finals, they shorten their bench,” Parker said. “We prepare our whole team to play. We ran Buffalo into the ground by running 45 second shifts with three lines where Buffalo was running longer shifts and only two lines much of the game. We coaches kept running down the bench telling the girls, ‘Three lines beats two lines, go faster, go harder,’ and they did. They made us so proud.”
The championship-winning goal was scored with a broken arm. Emily Rose suffered the injury in the first game of the tournament. It helped that one of the assistant coaches, Brian Harley, is an orthopedic surgeon. He had Rose back in his office taking X-rays and forming a customized cast so she could still hold a stick.
“She is a tough girl,” Parker said. “She was fighting with her father [Jeff], also on our coaching staff. She wanted to play without a cast.”
Of course, they weren’t going to let that happen. It didn’t matter. Her wrist shot through traffic, cast and all, still did the trick.
“She has an absolute cannon,” Parker said. “Of course, it was not as hard with the cast, which was on her bottom arm.”
Kayla McCabe backstopped the shutout with a determination very few players have to experience. Her father, retired 1st Sgt. Arthur McCabe, is currently working in Afghanistan. He told his daughter that, should the Nationals win, he would meet them in San Jose, Calif. for the USA Hockey National Championships.
“She told me before the game, ‘Don’t worry, not a single puck is going by me,’” Parker said.
None did. And now a gritty, tough, workmanlike team that took on the personality of its hometown will be competing in the National Championships, where a daughter will be reunited with her father.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Girls Tier I
12U: Buffalo Bisons
14U: Syracuse Nationals
16U: Buffalo Bisons
19U: Buffalo Bisons
Girls Tier II
12U: West Seneca Wings
14U: Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder
16U: Potsdam Ice Storm
19U: Chazy Youth Hockey