GREEN BAY, Wis. – Things looked bleak for the Boston Jr. Eagles.
Facing a Pittsburgh Penguins Elite team that hadn’t surrendered a single goal in the previous five games at the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championships, a 1-0 Eagles deficit in the third period of the title game felt like 10-0.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was nervous and the girls were not,” Eagles coach Mike Mullowney said. “They have confidence to them. They went through this a little bit in the state tournament. I just had a feeling deep down that if there was a group that could do it, it would be them.”
And they did.
The Eagles took advantage of a few breaks in the third and scored twice in a span of 8 minutes, 12 seconds. The team then had to fight off a flurry of shots by the Penguins to hold on for a 2-1 victory at the Cornerstone Ice Center on Monday morning.
It’s the first national championship for the Boston Jr. Eagles program.
Trailing by a goal entering the third period, the Eagles, who came into the tournament as the top-ranked team, never wavered.
“We just had to believe in ourselves, and our coach kept on saying, ‘C’mon, you can do it,’” said Eagles goalie Kelly Pickreign, who finished with 22 saves. “Once we got one, he said we were going to win. We got one and we won.”
It wasn’t easy to get a puck past Penguins goalie Gwyneth Philips. She logged three shutouts in the team’s previous three nationals games and also didn’t allow a goal in a splitting another game with goalie Hannah Lindey.
“They had constant pressure and had a couple nice bounces, some odd-man rushes and they just finished,” Penguins coach Kate Michael said. “It was nothing that Gwyneth did. I think she stood on her head all week for us. Our defense had been great and didn’t give up a lot of opportunities.”
Philips came up with big save after big save in the opening two periods, using her left-handed glove with perfection.
Just 1:08 into the third period, Eagles’ Courtney Hyland was in the right place at the right time in front of the net and scored to tie the game.
“I thought once we got that first goal, we became a different team,” Mullowney said. “We got a little jump in our step and the puck started going our way.”
With nine minutes remaining in regulation, Eagles forward Annie Berry was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Her team killed off the Penguins power play, and when Berry got out of the box, she turned the tide of the game.
Berry’s teammate Katie Tresca led a rush down the ice and put a shot on Philips, who gave up a rebound.
“It was lucky enough to come right to me, and I had a wide open net,” Berry said.
She buried it into the back of the twine.
With its first lead of the game and 6:40 remaining, the Eagles had plenty of work to do warding off a potent Penguins offense.
“It was probably the longest six minutes of my life, it was pretty intense,” Berry said. “We just kept our composure and it worked out pretty well.”
The Penguins, who scored the game’s opening goal in the first as Mary Katherine Gialames put a slapshot past Pickreign, had plenty of chances to score an equalizer late in the game. Grace Lee rang a shot off the post with 2:05 remaining and had another golden opportunity just seconds later.
Philips, who closed out the game with 15 stops, was pulled with 36 second remaining, but the Penguins couldn’t get a shot past Pickreign.
As the final horn sounded, the Eagles players mobbed Pickreign at the back of the net.
“It’s probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Berry about winning a national title.
Berry’s previous “best feeling” was scoring what turned out to be the eventual game-winning goal to complete her team’s comeback.
“They really refused to lose,” Mullowney said. “It was very special.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.