GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Two 19U powerhouses were colliding.
Chicago Mission was ranked No. 1 all season. Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) ranked No. 2 and was winners of five of the last 10 national titles.
The two teams squared off six times during the regular season, with Chicago coming out on top in five of those games. However, this was the postseason. Heck, it was the title game at the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 19U National Championships, where anything can happen.
The Mission came out on a mission and scored three first-period goals. Despite constant pressure from Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Chicago hung on for a 3-2 victory at the Cornerstone Ice Arena on Monday afternoon.
Chicago is used to reaching nationals and advancing to the title game. But the team was looking for its first championship since 2008.
“We’ve got silver plates all over our building, and several of these kids have been in this game before and come up empty,” Mission coach Tony Cachey said. “If there’s justice, this is it.”
The Chicago girls played with a big target on their backs all season, being the top-ranked team in the nation.
“It feels so good to be No. 1 and carry that the entire season,” said Mission forward Tatum Skaggs, who scored the game-winning goal. “To top it off with this feels even better.”
The Mission, who closed out the season with a 74-6 record, won all six of their nationals games and outscored opponents 32-7. It was a dominating performance all five days of the tournament.
“Every team that we play, they’re going in this as their Stanley Cup, so we just had to know that we have to come ready every game,” said Chicago forward Jessica Compher, who tallied two assists in the title game. “This tournament we were playing our best hockey, so we realized that if we kept doing what we were doing that we’d come out with the win.”
The Mission didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard as Cathryn Granato lit the lamp just 1 minute, 59 seconds into the game.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s tied the game 2:16 later as Abby Cleary found the back of the net.
“They scored one early and that kind of got us back on our heels,” Shattuck-St. Mary’s coach Gordie Stafford said. “We responded really well. We’ve been back and forth with them all year, so a one-goal game is fitting.”
Chicago took the lead for good with 4:52 left in the first on a goal from Skaggs after Compher won a faceoff. Near the end of the period, Harvard University commit Grace Zarzecki gave the Mission a 3-1 lead.
“That was a big momentum change for us as we took it as a team and carried it and finished it,” said Skaggs, who will play collegiately at Ohio State University.
Cachey liked how aggressive his players were to take control and make plays.
“We got some pucks to the net and they went in and it set the tone for the game,” Cachey said. “We were in good shape emotionally on the bench after that. They did a really nice job of hanging on. Shattuck didn’t give up, and we knew they wouldn’t.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s pulled to within one with nearly 11 minutes left in the third period as Alexandra Woken scored four seconds after a faceoff.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s opted to take out goalie Emmanuelle Cooper, who finished with 33 saves, with 1:15 remaining for an extra skater. A little confusion led to a too many players on the ice penalty for Shattuck. An offsetting minor penalty to the Mission allowed Shattuck-St. Mary’s the opportunity to go back to a 6-on-5 advantage for the final 27.3 seconds. Mission goalie Amanda Di Nella was tested but didn’t break.
“She’s a big-game goalie. The bigger the game, the more she likes it,” Cachey said. “She been that way since she was little.”
Winning the first national title since 2008 is a huge accomplishment for the Mission program.
“A lot of these kids have been here for years and have played since the U12 team and they’ve worked hard,” Cachey said. “They deserve it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.