Madi Nichols and Jocelin Hudanish made sure the Lady Vipers returned to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships.
Nichols scored a hat trick and Hudanish added two goals to lead the Florida-based Vipers to a 5-2 win over the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs in the Southeast District Girls Tier II 14-and-Under championship on Sunday.
The win at A-Game Sportsplex sends the Vipers to the USA Hockey National Championships for the second straight year. This year’s event will be held March 26-30 in Lansing, Mich.
“I think we’ll do very good,” said Nichols, a forward who has three hat tricks with the Vipers.
The NOVA Ice Dogs beat the Vipers 3-1 in the opener of the best-of-three series on Saturday morning, but the Vipers forced a third game by defeating NOVA 3-2 in the second game later that night. Hudanish scored the Vipers’ only goal in the opener before adding two more in the second game.
In the championship, NOVA narrowed the gap to 3-2 with 3:24 left in the second period, but the Vipers answered 15 seconds later and added another goal in the final period.
“We’re known for offense,” said Ice Dogs coach Josh Hudanish, Jocelin’s dad. “It’s a lot of puck possession, a lot of plays around the net.”
Nichols opened the scoring on a rebound from close range, putting the Vipers up 1-0 at 4:31 of the first period.
Six minutes later, NOVA’s Haley Battles tied it at 1-1 with a goal.
Nichols’ second goal put the Vipers back on top 2-1 with a wrist shot from the right side of the crease at 3:45 of the second period.
Two minutes after that, Hudanish’s power-play goal increased the Vipers’ lead to 3-1 as she put a rebound in the top part of the net.
NOVA got a chance to close the gap six minutes later with a 5-on-3 power play for 64 seconds when Abigail Hinckley went to the penalty box for a body check and Emily Henderson followed her after being called for tripping.
The Ice Dogs couldn’t capitalize on the two-man advantage or the 5-on-4, but eight seconds after the second penalty expired Auggie Burke scored from the front of the crease to narrow the deficit to 3-2 with 3:24 left in the second period.
It only took the Vipers 15 seconds to regain the momentum when Morgan Miller slid a nice pass through the low slot to Hudanish on the right side of the crease, where she put the puck into an open net for a 4-2 lead.
Nichols completed her hat trick and ended the game’s scoring when she broke loose on a partial breakaway and beat goalie Sydney Stropes with a wrist shot to the stick side with 10:47 left in the game.
“She’s awesome,” Jocelin Hudanish said of Nichols.
NOVA brought in goalie Jane Filmonchik to finish up after the fifth goal.
Vipers goalie Seanna Perkins earned the win with 29 saves. NOVA outshot the Vipers 31-27.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.