SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Assabet Valley Red coach Dennis Laing walked from the locker room to the bench before the third period of Sunday’s USA Hockey Tier I 19-and-Under girls’ national championship game vs. the Chicago Mission, he looked worried.
Was he concerned about his team holding a 1-0 lead — the eventual final score — for the final 17 minutes? Was Laing thinking about his player’s legs, because they beat Honeybaked (Mich.) in a close 2-1 game that morning? Or was he wishing he had four of his top players, two who were lost before the championships and then two more who were lost to injury during the championships?
Try all of the above — and one more thing, which wasn’t related to his squad.
“A repeat of what happened in the last game,” Laing said with a laugh.
Laing, who also coaches the Assabet Valley Red Tier I 16U girls’ team, saw that team lose a 3-2 lead on two third period goals by Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the 16U championship game just moments before the Tier I 19U title contest.
But thanks to Shayna Tomlinson’s first period goal and a 29-save shutout by Brianna Laing, who happens to be the coach’s daughter, Assabet Valley’s 19U took home its third national championship in the last four years. In addition, Assabet Valley won its fourth Tier I 19U title overall. Only Shattuck-St. Mary’s has more, with five.
As for the Chicago Mission, they were trying to win their second national crown. The first came in 2008. This was also the second straight year they finished as runners-up to Assabet Valley.
Assabet Valley reached the championship round after winning all three games in pool play and outscoring the opposition 21-1. Assabet Valley beat Team Pittsburgh and Honeybaked to earn the rematch against Chicago Mission.
“I had a lot of confidence,” said Laing, whose voice was hoarse after having coached three intense games in less than eight hours. “I was confident with these kids and in the goaltending. I was hoping we’d get by and we sure did.
“It was the championship game. They came out and played with a lot of heart and desire,” Laing added. “It got them through it. It was great. Awesome.”
A potential flash point came early in the first period. At 3:28, the officials disallowed a goal by Assabet Valley. Fortunately for Laing and his team, Tomlinson scored at 5:04, assisted by Erin Conway and Taylor Marchin.
“I thought we actually controlled the whole first period,” Laing said. “I didn’t really have a concern with it [the disallowed goal].”
A big key for Assabet was withstanding a third-period rush by Chicago Mission, which out shot Assabet Valley 15-3 in the final 17 minutes. Laing gave a lot of credit to Brianna Laing for having a strong game in net, and to his shorthanded blue line.
“She came up with some huge saves,” Laing said of Brianna. “We only played with four defensemen throughout the tournament, and those four played great. And the forwards helped the defense. A good team effort. A good team win.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.