IRVING, Texas – For the first time, a Utah girls’ team has qualified for the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships.
The Tier II 19U Utah Lady Grizzlies bounced back from a loss to Colorado Select in the round-robin qualifier to shut out the Colorado team 3-0 Sunday in the Rocky Mountain District final. The win at the Dr. Pepper Star Center Valley Ranch sends Utah to the national championships March 26-30 in Lansing, Mich.
While the Lady Grizzlies proved to be the first Utah team to qualify for nationals, this might have been the last time for this specific Lady Grizzlies team to qualify.
“They all have the potential to come back next year,” coach Stan Weiss said. “They might not all come back, because some are going to college.”
The Lady Grizzlies had just 14 players at the district tournament. Of those, Kyra Dellermann and Jasmine Weiss are the only 18-year-olds, but both would be eligible to come back to 19U next season.
“One of our girls (Mikayla Dykman) is 14, three are 15 and three are 16,” Weiss said. “We had a 3- or 4-year plan, but we exceeded it.”
The team has reached the national championships in its second year.
Some of the youngest players have key roles. Scoring the goals against Colorado were 15-year-old Riley Stout; 16-year-old Mina Maciunas, who also had an assist, and 17-year-old Kristine Earl. Goalie Samantha Zvonkovic, who shut out Colorado, is 17.
With such a small roster, “Everybody played an important role,” Weiss said. “They all played great.
“They have great spirit. They love each other. It’s a nice blend. The defense is rock solid. Our goalie, we can always count on her.
“Both of our centers work hard,” he continued. “Mina has been our leading scorer in the tournament. She and Kyra are not self-centered. They make the other four players better.”
The final game was hanging in the balance midway through the third period. The Lady Grizzlies led 2-0 on an early goal by Maciunas and another by Stout 1:18 into the third.
With Colorado on the power play, Zvonkovic dived onto the puck just before Anna Marie Zak’s backhand would have crossed the goal line. Following a faceoff, penalty killer Earl took the puck the length of the ice for an unassisted, shorthanded goal.
Utah also shut out Arizona Lady Coyotes 1-0 Thursday and edged Rocky Mountain Lady Roughriders (Westminster, Colo.) 4-3 Friday before losing 2-1 to Colorado Select on Saturday. Both teams advanced to the final as the top two teams in the round robin.
Just two teams were entered in the Tier I 16U and Tier II 14U divisions. The champions both won the first two games of best-of-three series.
Dallas Stars Elite won both Tier I 16U games from Colorado Select by a score of 5-1.
The Rocky Mountain Lady Roughriders defeated the Lone Star Brahmas (North Richland Hills, Texas) 4-1 and 9-1 to win the Tier II 14U title.
A Very Texan Trip
The tournament, hundreds of miles from the Rocky Mountains, began with unexpected weather. Up to seven inches of snow fell in Irving on Thursday, the first day. Some early games were postponed or moved to the Dr. Pepper Star Center in Frisco.
Despite the weather, teams and fans from more mountainous areas had no doubt they were in Texas. The Dr. Pepper StarCenter Valley Ranch is on Cowboys Parkway between Landry Court and Dorsett Drive. Just 3 ½ blocks south is the Dallas Cowboys’ famed Valley Ranch practice facility. To the north is Barbara Bush Middle School.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.