SAN JOSE, Calif. — Regardless of the level, any team that wins a championship has to travel the proverbial long and hard road.
The USA Hockey Tier I 14-and-Under girls’ national champion Chicago Young Americans are no exception to the rule. Of course, reaching and winning the state championship is one thing. And then to come to nationals and have to grind even more is harder.
In the first game on April 3, CYA (the No. 5 seed of the American Conference) opened against No. 2 seed Honeybaked (Mich.). CYA out shot Honeybaked 26-9 and outscored them 4-1 en route to a 5-1 win.
Game No. 2 the next day came against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. CYA out shot the Pens 36-16 for the game. But after the Pens scored the game’s first goal in the first period, CYA couldn’t get on the board until Katelyn Russ tallied at 12:09 of the third.
When Pittsburgh’s Blossom Truel was called for hooking at 1:35 of the first overtime, that gave CYA a chance to win, and Andrea Renner’s power play goal at 2:50 gave CYA the victory. They did lose to No. 3 seed New Jersey in overtime 6-5 in their last pool game on April 5, but CYA had to rally from a two-goal deficit to get to the extra frame.
The hard road carried over into the first game of the playoff bracket as CYA needed overtime to beat the Mid Fairfield (Conn.) Stars 1-0 on April 6. Oh yeah, Mid Fairfield was the top seeded team in the National Conference.
So, CYA downed two top conference seeds and won three of four overtime games en route to the title.
No wonder they call Chicago the “City of Broad Shoulders.”
“We had the hardest draw of the tournament,” CYA coach Mike Glass said. “Having to come here and playing all of the best teams and win makes it [winning the title] that much sweeter.”
Not much to say or do
Coaches install their systems at the beginning of the season. Teams practice and play games during the season to get themselves ready for the postseason. So when CYA arrived in San Jose for the national championships, Glass and his staff didn’t have that much coaching to do to get the kids ready to play.
But there were other things. After all, the kids were in the national championships. They were away from home. There were plenty of distractions.
“It was definitely all about keeping them calm and focused,” Glass said. “One of our mantras all year long was, ‘Hard work and good habits.’ That’s how you win.”
Kudos to the East Coast Wizards
After the game, Glass was more than complimentary to East Coast (Mass.) Wizards coach Scott Fusco and his squad.
“It was one of those games where you hate to see someone lose,” Glass said. “You have to take your hat off to the other team. They’re a great team. The two best teams definitely were in this game. They were really well coached. You hate to see them lose. But it’s nice to be on the other side.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.