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Lady Vipers Work Overtime to Win Two SE Titles

By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com, 04/01/14, 4:45PM MDT

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The Lady Vipers worked overtime to win the only two girls’ titles decided in the Southeast District this season.

The 19-and-Under and 16-and-Under Lady Vipers, who are based at the Ice Factory in Kissimmee, Fla., each won two-game series at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, N.C. The 19U team outlasted the Frederick (Md.) Freeze 3-2 and 5-4 while the 14U team won a pair of 2-1 decisions from the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs.

Every game went into overtime.

The wins — and berths into the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Girls’ National Championships — culminated hard-fought seasons.

All but three of the players who make up the 19U team — the first 19U team the Lady Vipers have produced — would actually be eligible to play on the 16U level. They spent their entire season playing as the only girls’ team in the Central Florida Hockey League, facing boys’ teams, before taking their young lineup into girls’ competition and landing a spot at the national championships this week in Amherst, N.Y.

“It would have been a struggle to go with a small bench as a U16 team, and we’d have to leave the three girls out,” Lady Vipers team manager Pauline Ade said. “It’s the best of both worlds.

“We’re here together and the girls appreciate all the obstacles they overcame.”

The 14U team is more established, including national tournament veterans, and is more successful playing within the CFHL.

It was not easy, but the Lady Vipers returned home from the Feb. 28-March 2 event with two district championships.

The workout started with an early Saturday morning 19U game. The 19U Lady Vipers never had a lead in regulation during the best-of-three series.

Shaylyn Maybury, an assistant captain who splits time between forward and defense, assisted on goals that brought the Lady Vipers back from one-goal deficits twice in the first period. Team captain Morgan Phelps, who connected on the power play, and defenseman Anne Marie Palkovic scored the goals.

The teams remained tied at 2-2 through the second and third periods, then an overtime period, setting up a shootout. Vyctoria Smith and Krista Evans scored in the shootout while Megan McRae, who already had made 22 saves, only allowed one Frederick goal.

Later the same day, the Lady Vipers dug out of a 3-0 deficit with help from 41 saves by McRae. The three-goal deficit lasted only 10 seconds into the second period before Phelps scored to start the comeback. Jennifer Maier, who had one assist in the opener and another earlier in Game 2, scored with 2:05 left to force overtime.

With the district title at stake, there was no shootout. The teams proceeded through two 10-minute overtimes and into a third before Smith scored the game-winner with 4:08 left.

Ade said a trying season toughened the girls for the challenges of battling from behind in the district championship series.

“When we were down in the second game, you could see that,” Ade said.

The 19U Lady Vipers were winless against their all-boys’ schedule until the final game of the CFHL regular season. Then, in their first chance to play other girls’ teams, they prepared for districts by going 1-1-1 in the Polar Bear Tournament in Connecticut.

The 14U Lady Vipers watched the older girls from their program celebrate and then went out and created some special moments of their own.

Katheryn Leffler had taken the overtime faceoff in the morning game and skated in to decide the game just 10 seconds into the extra session.

Leffler then scored early in Game 2 before setting up the overtime game-winner by Emily Henderson, who had assisted on Leffler’s goal.

Seana Perkins made some key saves early in the overtime to make Henderson’s game-winner possible.

Jocelin Hudanish, Raquel Ade and Kylee Crawford also had assists in the two-game sweep.

The 14U team has some experience on the national level. Many of the players were on a 12U team that made it to nationals in 2012. Part of that group returned last year to 14U Tier II nationals where the Lady Vipers won for the first time, beating Team Wyoming in the overtime opener with the help of two goals by Evans, who is now on the 19U team.

The growing program, which draws interested girls from around Florida to the Orlando area to play together, is taking two teams to nationals for the first time.

“We started three years ago with eight girls,” Ade said. “Now, we have 70 from U19 down to our U10s and U8s.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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