TAYLOR, Mich. -- When John Poolton took over as head coach of the Little Caesars Tier I 19-and-Under girls’ team, the program was in shambles.
Several players had left the Detroit-area team, leaving a depleted roster. The powerhouse youth hockey organization brought in Poolton to serve as what he called “a Band-Aid” to keep the squad together.
“It was a mess for sure,” Poolton said.
The season began with a 15-game losing streak, but the Little Caesars girls were able to put the pieces back together in time for a run at a state title. The team went 2-2 to finish third of five teams in the round-robin portion of the Michigan state tournament last week at the Taylor Sportsplex.
The journey to the state tournament started with the basics. Poolton began by teaching the girls about working hard while stressing to each and every player the importance of accountability.
It was tough going at first, as the team suffered through the losing streak. But things began to come together soon after, and the wins started piling up. As Little Caesars began to win, the girls’ confidence grew.
In mid-February, the team won a bronze medal at the CAN/AM Tournament in Madison, Wis., outscoring their opponents 14-9.
For Little Caesars this season, however, nothing came easy.
Another obstacle to overcome was the injury bug, as the team lost three key players. Yet the squad was able to get through that adversity, too.
“We beat some of the top-10 ranked teams,” Poolton recalled. “Even the teams we lost to, we were still very competitive, and nothing came easy for our opponents against our team. The girls were very competitive, and as a coach what more could you ask for.”
It certainly opened Poolton eyes.
“I got more then what I expected as far as hard work and accountability,” he said. “They are a good group of girls, and they surprised me, that’s for sure. I am extremely proud of what they accomplished this year.”
Honeybaked 16U Thrives Despite Losing Players to Concussions
The Honeybaked Tier I 16U girls’ team reached the state finals before losing twice to Little Caesars, 4-3 and 4-1. Just making it that far was considered an accomplishment, however, given the abnormal amount of concussions team members suffered this season.
“We have had three separate concussions,” coach Rob Robinson said. “That’s a lot. I think in the many years of coaching I maybe had one at the most on any given year.”
The latest concussion occurred during the team’s second round-robin game. Janie Groetsch’s head hit the boards as she was battling. The injury forced her to miss the rest of the tournament.
“She was very disappointed because she’s a competitor,” Robinson said. “She’s back home now. There is no reason for her to be here. She needs to relax and get healthy.”
Goaltender Jacque Rogers and defensemen Kayla Martinez, the other two Honeybaked players who had concussions, have since returned to the line-up.
Best of the Rest
Michigan named three Tier I champions from the event at the Taylor Sportsplex. Honeybaked claimed the 19U championship game. In addition to their 16U title, Little Caesars also claimed the Tier I 14U title. The team overcame a round-robin loss to Honeybaked to win 3-1 in the championship game. The winner will move on to the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships March 26-30 in Green Bay, Wis.
Michigan’s Tier II girls’ tournament is scheduled for March 12-15. The Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships will be held March 26-30 in Lansing, Mich.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.