Last season, the Troy Lady Sting Tier II 14U girls team didn’t win the Michigan state title, but was still awarded a trip to nationals.
The players wanted to earn their way to the national tournament this year at the 16U level. In the Sting’s way was their pesky counterparts, the Kensington Valley Ravens.
Kensington Valley beat Troy last year in the state championship game.
“The girls were looking for a rematch all year and really that was our goal from the beginning,” Sting 16U coach Tom Porter said. “We wanted to get to states again and have a rematch with Kensington Valley. They’re a very good team and they had been state champs like three years in a row.”
The teams got their long awaited showdown for the state title in Dearborn on Sunday, March 13.
The Sting’s two leading scorers this year made an impact early in the game. Emily Stemple (58 goals, 28 assists) tallied the team’s first two goals and Sara Krauseneck (51 goals, 32 assists) added a third as Troy went up 3-1.
Troy had two-goal advantages in two regular-season games against Kensington Valley but couldn’t put them away. However, the title game was different. Troy added an empty-net goal and Kensington Valley scored not long after as the Sting won it 4-2.
“My girls came out and you could see the fire in their eyes,” Porter said. “You could see it, they said, ‘Not this year. Not this year.’ Those kids didn’t stop moving their feet until they were off the ice. They skated hard and prevailed.”
In the round-robin portion of the state tournament, Troy beat Livonia 6-0, Oakland Jr. Grizzles 8-1, and Ann Arbor Cougars 3-1. The victory over the Cougars was a hard-fought affair.
“Their goalie was really, really good and we knew that we’d have to move the puck around to get something by her — we did and we were successful,” Porter said.
In the semifinals, the Sting edged Fox Motors 2-1. That sent Troy to the state title game where it won its first championship.
Troy (40-10-4) has had a strong season. It played a tough schedule, including taking on some Canadian teams.
The Sting have outscored their opponents 225-85. Averaging 4.2 goals per game and allowing just 1.57 a game has been a great formula for success.
“I firmly believe that defense wins championships, but I would say if you would compare the two, we’re stronger offensively,” Porter said. “Our offense and that skating ability augments our defense, so our defensemen get help from our girls backchecking.”
Ava Thewes has impressed her coach all season between the pipes.
“She is as sound as it comes,” Porter said. “When you watch her play, her fundamentals, staying square to the shooter, her side to side, she’s the whole package.”
Porter also has high praise for his defensive core in which he calls a “tough bunch.”
“They’re very smart and they can move the puck,” Porter said. “They’re the quarterbacks of the team, if you ask me.”
Forwards Brenna Fairbanks (17 goals, 31 assists) and Delanie Goniwiecha (31 goals, 30 assists) have been playing well the entire season.
A Program on the Rise
Winning its first state title and heading to nationals for the second-straight year is a big thing for Troy.
The Troy Youth Hockey Association has evolved gradually since it was established in 1997. It grew its program by introducing hockey to young kids and having them come up through the ranks.
The association is a past winner of the USA Hockey’s Female Honors Award. The award is designed to recognize hockey associations that are leaders in the growth, development and promotion of ice hockey for females. It’s awarded to one district on a yearly basis.
“The girls program has really, really expanded a lot,” said Porter, who is in his third year with the program. “I think USA Hockey saw that and they saw the program and they were impressed with that.”
Porter is an advocate of coaching the fundamentals to his players and teaching the right way to play.
“I’m a firm believer in skills and trying to get the girls skating the best,” Porter said. “If you’re comfortable on the outside edge, they’re going to be top-notch players and excel over girls that are not.”
Troy will try to win its first national championship when it travels to Burlington, Vermont. The Sting have their first game against Orland Park Vikings on Thursday, March 31 at 2 p.m.
The Sting went 3-0 in the round-robin competition at 14U nationals last year and earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. However, the team was upset 2-1 in the quarterfinals by eighth-seeded KPHA Ice Hawks.
“It’s another one of those, we’re going to do it right this year,” Porter said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.