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Ice Breakers Advance to 19U Nationals With 2 OT Victory

By John Tranchina - Special to, 03/16/15, 8:00PM MDT


The Ice Breakers won the national championship in 2012 at the 14U level.

The Alaska Ice Breakers Tier II 19U girls’ squad prevailed in double overtime in the Pacific District final to advance to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships March 26-30 in Lansing, Mich.

Facing the Washington Wild in the final, the Ice Breakers battled back from a 2-0 deficit to send the contest into overtime tied 2-2, and with 9:30 left in the second OT, MacKenzie Sylvester buried a pass from Jessica Carlson to win it.

“We were down 2-0 until about 3-4 minutes to go in the second period, and we finally got one by their goaltender, who was playing well,” recalled Alaska coach Luther Brice. “We went to the locker room, talked to the girls. We have been in those situations before. We felt like we were controlling the game, we just couldn’t seem to get one by their goaltender, and I talked to the girls about being patient in the third, keep working hard and you’ll be rewarded, and we managed to tie it up.”

It wasn’t the first clutch goal for Sylvester, either.

“It was exciting for her. She scored a game-winner for us about three years ago in kind of a similar situation,” Brice said. “She was really excited, and that whole line worked hard [including Jade Meier], it took all three of them to make that happen. It was nice to see. They got on a nice quick drive on a regroup deep in our zone, drove it wide, and Mac just came in late and the goaltender bit on the girl going to the back post rather than the girl in the high slot. That’s something that we’ve been working on for awhile.”

For the Ice Breakers, the trip to nationals will not be their first, having won it all in 2012 at the 14U level.

“It’s always exciting,” Brice said of the national tournament. “This group, we’ve participated in four national tournaments in the last six years. We’ve got some girls that we’ve added and subtracted during that time, obviously, but out of that group, 11 of them are graduating this year, so it’s their last run.”

Despite 3 OT loss, Lady Pioneers Made Strides at Districts

Their season ended in the most heart breaking of fashions, but the Alaska Lady Pioneeers Tier II 14U girls’ team still made impressive strides this season.

The Lady Pioneers, based out of Palmer, Alaska, rolled through the Pacific District’s round robin, winning all four of their games by a combined 22-4, but their memories of their trip to San Jose will likely be focused on the gut-wrenching 3-2 loss in triple overtime in the final against the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Ice Hawks.

They’d already beaten the Ice Hawks 3-1 in the round robin, as well as several other times during the season, but quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first period. After regrouping, the Lady Pioneers clawed their way back into the game, eventually tying it on Hannah Lowery’s goal early in the third period to force overtime.

“Our hopes were high that we would probably win that one,” said Pioneers coach Tim Popowski. “[The Ice Hawks] were ready, we gave up a couple of soft goals, probably two goals that we would have liked to have back, but to come back from being down 2-0 to get it to go into overtime was pretty big for us. We took it as a positive, but of course, they were pretty devastated.”

Of course, no one expected it to last nearly as long as it did.

“I’ve never had one go that long before,” Popowski said. “Most overtimes we’ve done have been over in the first couple of minutes or the last few minutes of the first overtime. This one could have been over sooner; they hit the post a couple of times, we hit the post a couple of times. It could have gone either way from the first overtime.”

The Lady Pioneers even killed off a 5-on-3 power play against them in the third overtime, but in the end, KPHA’s Alie McCarron scored to end it.

As devastating as it was, though, just getting that far was a major accomplishment for the Lady Pioneers. They even had the tournament’s top two leading scorers, as Tate Senden registered seven goals and 12 points in just five games, while Leah Lund had five goals and nine points.

“This was our first time ever being in a district championship game,” Popowski said. “We’re just a small little association in Palmer, Alaska. It was a really big deal for them. It was a blast to hang out with them. They became a really good team, had some really great chemistry. They’re a really tight group, some of them have known each other their whole lives, they’ve played a lot of hockey together, and for them to get as far as they did was pretty amazing.

“It was tough, but it was a good experience. They’re already ready for next year”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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