skip navigation

Girls Tier I 14U Notebook: Former Hobey Baker Winner had Faith in His Team

By Justin A. Rice - Special to, 04/07/14, 8:30AM MDT


MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- After the East Coast Wizard’s pulled within one goal of Assabet Valley with just under a minute to play in the 14-and-Under championship game at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Girls National Championships on Sunday, Eric Fusco thought his team had more than a fighting chance to win the game.

“Yeah all you have to do is think back to the [women's] Olympic game with the U.S. and Canada,” the former Hobey Baker Award winner at Harvard University said. “[Canada] was down two with three minutes left and plenty of time. Or you think back to the [Boston] Bruins-Toronto [Maple Leafs] game from the playoffs last year. Two goals in the last 30 seconds.

“So lots of things can happen in hockey. We got one we just couldn’t quite get another.”

It didn’t work out for the Wizards this time, though. Assabet went on to win 2-1 at the New England Sports Center

After East Coast’s Ashlie Jones scored at 15:03 in the third to make the game 2-1, the Wizards were called for an offsides penalty and Assabet cleared the puck after winning the ensuing faceoff.

The loss was the Wizards’ third straight in the U14 championship. And losing to a state rival like Assabet is even harder.

“It makes it hard because you see them over and over again at different hockey things,” Fusco said. “On the other hand, sometimes it’s good for people you know to have success as well. It’s good for both programs to have such a strong program so close to us. It makes everybody better.”

Fusco also enjoyed coaching the youngest of his three daughters, Mia Fusco, this season.

“It was fun,” he said. “She’s a good player. She’s easy to coach. Very coachable, which isn’t always easy when you are coached by your dad.”

Budding Rivalry

Going into the 14U championship game, Assabet Valley and the East Coast Wizards had met five times previously this season.

The Wizards won two of the four regular-season games against Assabet and the final bout was a tie. In the state tournament, Assabet won 4-3. Sunday’s championship game was also a 2-1 Assabet.

“We have played them a lot this year, which was good for us going into the game,” Michaela O’Conner said after scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal in the third period. “We knew how they were going to play, but we got out there and we tried our best and at the end of the game we all threw our gloves up, and it was just an incredible feeling.”

Two years ago the Assabet 14U squad defeated the Wizards 3-2 in overtime in the national title game at the same rink.

“It’s a nice rivalry we have, and it’s obviously nice to have good local competition,” Assabet coach Eric Gray said.

Scoring Leaders

Going into the 14U championship game on Sunday, Assabet’s Charlote Welch and Julia Nearis were tied for second in points in the tournament with 10 apiece behind Chicago Mission’s Katie Cipra.

After Nearis assisted Welch’s first-period goal on Sunday, the Assabet duo ended up finishing in a three-way tie with 11 points each.

“It’s not really that big of a deal because it’s more of a team effort,” Welch said. “It’s not that one person who makes a whole team. My whole line has definitely contributed to it with Julia and Michaela [O’Connor] and everything, so it’s not that big of a deal to me.”

Welch’s twin sister Elizabeth is also on the team.

“It’s pretty good, we’ve been on the same team forever so it’s definitely a big deal,” Charlote said of winning the national title with her sister.  

Standing Out in Net

Gwyneth Philips of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite team finished the 14U tournament as the top goaltender with a perfect save percentage to go with one win and one shutout.

Kelly Pickreian of Boston Jr. Eagles finished second with a .974 save percentage, three wins and two shutouts. Alexandra Matses of Assabet was third with a .955 percentage, three wins and one shutout. 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Popular Articles & Features

USA Hockey Announces Updates to 2023-24 Tryout Parameters

By USA Hockey 02/01/2023, 12:55pm MST

The Grizzlies continued their undefeated season at nationals, going 6–0 in the five-day tournament

The Stars upset Shattuck-St. Mary’s 1-0 in the championship game