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Team Wisconsin Ready to Show Off On Home Ice

By Greg Bates - Special to USAHockey.com, 03/27/15, 11:00AM MDT

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The Tier I 14U host team is looking to spoil the party for its visitors.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mia Dunning woke up early on Thursday morning. She rolled out of bed and got ready for a big day. It was game day. It was a weekday. Her team was playing at 9:45 a.m.

It was certainly a different feeling since her squad, Team Wisconsin, was competing in the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships at the 14U level.

Dunning — a native of De Pere, just down the road from Green Bay — and her teammates had never experienced nationals. She was hoping the comforts of home and sleeping in her own bed would relax her before perhaps the biggest game of her life.

“It was quite surprising to me. In the morning I woke up and personally I was freaking out because I’ve never been in such a big tournament,” said Dunning, the team’s captain. “Even though it’s at home, it’s almost like you’re away from home. Once you’re on the ice it’s kind of like, ‘OK, it’s a regular game.’ You’ve got to play it.”

Team Wisconsin got into the national tournament as the host team at 14U, but the players aren’t taking it lightly that they received a free pass. The girls are thrilled to be taking on the top teams in the nation.

“It’s really an honor to be one of the host teams, and it really means a lot for the girls to represent Wisconsin and not only represent their own local club organizations and their high school here in a national tournament like this,” Team Wisconsin coach Andrew Bradford said.

Team Wisconsin opened its season in the fall with 22 regular-season games and notched a 13-8-1 record. Unlike the majority of the teams playing in nationals, Team Wisconsin doesn’t play together during the winter. The girls compete for their club and high school teams. Once those seasons are over, they reunited as Team Wisconsin.

“Because of the maturation and development for our team that happens individually at their local club and high schools, when we come back together, we’ve found that they’re excited to be together,” Bradford said. “They’ll all have gotten better and they’re reenergized to play with one another. It’s just finding that chemistry when it’s time to come back together.”

Playing against teams that have logged 30 to 40 games together can be tough.

“They have a lot more experience with each other, and they know the skills and difficulties that some of the girls have,” Dunning said. “But at the same time, you see the new things that girls bring in each time that you play a game together. There’s positives and negatives.”

Team Wisconsin looked good in its opening-round tournament game on Thursday. The girls downed the Dallas Stars Elite 10-1, tallying eight third-period goals. Eight different players lit the lamp, and Dunning, Laken Anderson, Lauryn Hull and Abigail Stow each had three points.

Before Thursday’s game, Dunning had a simple message for her teammates.

“I told the girls, ‘If you need to talk or anything, we can call each other or even talk before the game. We’ve got to let it all out, because we don’t want to be uptight once we get on the ice,’” Dunning said. “They respond well with that, because you don’t want to be too hard and say, ‘OK, guys, let’s be focused.’ You have to be ready to loosen up.”

Dunning has high aspirations for her team in the national tournament.

“I would love to make it to the championship,” Dunning said. “But the experience as a whole, you just gain character with all the games you play.”

In order to still be competing on championship Monday, Dunning knows she and her teammates have focus on the little aspects during each game.

“We’ve got to make sure that if we do all the small things that we learned in practice it will lead to the big things and the goals,” Dunning said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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