Jake Mastel, for specific reasons, knew who he wanted for the 19U Mid Fairfield girls’ hockey team when he took over the squad two years ago. The logistics of putting it together, however, was the key.
But when one considers that all involved — coaches and players — came together for the same common goal of challenging for a national championship, putting together such a collection of talent wasn’t all that difficult.
Sure from the outside looking in, Mastel noted, it would seem virtually impossible for Mid Fairfield to achieve the level success that it has. After all, the team hardly practiced as one, instead meeting every three or four weeks because it had players coming in from all over — Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Ohio and so forth. But Mastel preached a motto that instilled in his players to make the most of their time together, and they have.
That was evident when Mid Fairfield went 3-0-1 at the New England District tournament this past weekend at the Northford (Conn.) Ice Pavilion. It outscored the opposition 13-5 in the process to punch its ticket to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships, which are set for March 31-April 4 in Blaine, Minnesota.
In the district finals, the roster full of college prospects — 17 in all, including 12 Division-I signees — defeated the Northern (N.H.) Cyclones 3-0. The championship game may have been the exclamation point on what, to now, has been a credible 21-1-1 season, including a current 17-game unbeaten streak. But it was that one tie — against the Cyclones — in the preliminary round that proved to be the real motivator for Mid Fairfield.
That 2-2 draw, which snapped a 14-game winning streak, came about only after the Cyclones had rallied for two third-period power-play goals. The penalty-heavy final 17 minutes was eye opening, to say the least, for players such as Providence College-bound Rachel Rockwell.
“We recognized that we were controlling the game. We were winning 2-0 the whole game,” Rockwell said. “But you take a penalty or two it affects everything. When we recognized that, we really showed who was the better team.”
They left no doubt in the finals, controlling the action from start to finish.
“They’re capable of doing that. You have to get them focused,” said Mastel, who also coached a 13U squad this season. “Just go out there for 51 minutes. You can’t take any shifts off.”
“Tying that game helped us in the long run,” Boston College-bound Caitrin Lonergan said.
From a pair of goaltenders — Morgan Fisher, who is headed to UConn, and Emily Yue, bound for Harvard University — both of whom played in the district finals, to forwards and defensemen who could play interchangeable parts, the 19U Mid Fairfield girls have assembled a squad that most any team would crave to have. And make no doubt about that fact that this team is a cohesive unit, in spite of their lack of time together on the ice.
“We’re all just willing to help out. Our end goal is winning a national championship,” Rockwell said.
“It’s been pretty easy playing with some of the best in the country,” Lonergan said. “It hasn’t really been a challenge. These are some of the best players I’ve ever played with. It’s been a blessing playing with some of these players.”
Be it on the bench, on the ice or in the locker room, Mid Fairfield showed itself and all others watching what this team is made of.
“We all have a competitive drive,” Rockwell said. “Coming together from all over is pretty cool.”
If you build it, they will come. Jake Mastel has proven such with this team.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.