AMHERST, N.Y. -- Assabet Valley won just one game in pool play at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Girls National Championships. Then the squad turned it around, plowing through the playoffs, scoring 16 goals and letting up just two in three games en route to the 14-and-Under championship.
The team capped off the run with a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Titans in the title game.
“The coaches believed in the kids. The kids believed in themselves,” Assabet coach Dante DeMarco said of the turnaround. “Pool play — tough break against Alaska, losing 1-0. We outshot them. Same thing with Pittsburgh. We outshot them. We dominate the game, but we lose 6-1. It’s kind of a fluke. The kids came out, pulled it together and did what they needed to do.”
In the championship game, Assabet jumped out to a quick lead at 2:14. Ava Lopez rushed into the zone and from the left circle fired a high shot over the goalie’s shoulder.
“We got the first goal early and continued to roll,” DeMarco said.
Roll they did, making it 2-0 before the first period ended. Samantha Shoebottom banged a rebound from close range just between the glove and the post.
“I actually didn’t know it went in,” Shoebottom said. “I thought they were cheering for the goalie for making a good glove save because I fell. But after that it was a great feeling because you’re helping your team.”
Shoebottom had a breakaway early in the second, but Titans goalie Jordan Manning stopped it. However, shortly thereafter Assabet made it 3-0 at 3:26. A commotion in the crease resulted in Katie Hargrave knocking it in.
Near the end of the second, Shoebottom’s shot from the left point was deflected in to make it 4-0 after two.
New Jersey didn’t give up, despite being obviously tired after playing with only 10 skaters for five days.
“We were impressed with Assabet,” New Jersey coach Matt Kiernan said. “They played a really, really good game. We tried our best, playing a short bench all tournament long, playing two tough games after that, I think caught up to us.”
Rebecca Foggia, the tournament’s leading scorer with 12 goals, broke the shutout for New Jersey with a goal at 6:21. She brought the puck into the zone down the right side, cut across the slot and lifted a backhander past Karoline Winzer.
“We’re really proud with the way the girls came out and battled in the third period,” Kiernan said. “They showed their commitment level. They showed the type of players they are in that third period, being down 4-0 and coming back and working really, really hard trying to come back in that game.”
However, despite New Jersey ratcheting up their game, Elizabeth Emerson put the game away for Assabet with just under three minutes left.
“I thought our girls came out and executed our game like we asked them to,” DeMarco said. “They got the puck deep. They forechecked hard. We kept the pressure on them. As soon as we jumped out to an early lead, we continued our forecheck. And our kids were relentless. It worked out well for us.”
Shoebottom said of the win, “Its a great feeling. This is my first time on a team that had a chance to come to nationals. Doing it on your first year with a great team is awesome. It’s a feeling you can’t even describe.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.