With an impressive collective accomplishment in their past and apparent individual bright futures, the Chicago Mission 19U Tier I girls’ team is headed back to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships, scheduled for March 31-April 4 in Blaine, Minnesota.
Slightly more than half of the roster is back from 2015 to try to defend the Mission’s national title. Similarly, more than half the squad is committed to NCAA Division I college hockey programs with most of the others making plans to play at strong Division III programs.
“They’re obviously experienced players, not only from what they went through last year, but in years past,” head coach Tony Cachey said. “In terms of preparing and keeping their nerves under control, that’s something that hopefully they’ll be able to lean on and play the best they can.”
The Mission (56-12-2) arrives at nationals having won 20 of its last 21 games, including 14 by shutout to reduce its season goals against average to under one per game.
“We play good defense,” Cachey said. “We normally are responsible in our own zone and with the puck.
“They’ve bought into a concept that we have to be responsible and play good defense. Beyond that, they just work real hard.
“We try to instill in them that nothing is going to happen without making an effort.”
Cachey said the team has successfully combined talent, a willingness to work and composure in competitive situations into a winning combination.
Chicago won its last three games before nationals by shutout. It completed a series in which it had split the first two games with the Chicago Young Americans, another national tournament participant from the Central District, by winning the third, 6-0. Then, at the Central District’s Kohlman Cup, the Mission locked up its nationals berth by handling the Milwaukee Junior Admirals, 7-0, and the St. Louis Lady Blues, 4-0.
Along the way, the Mission also won the High Performance Hockey League (HPHL), going 7-0 by a combined margin of 28-5 against a schedule that featured the Chicago Young Americans, HoneyBaked and Little Caesars.
Tatum Skaggs led the team in scoring during the HPHL and is also the top returning scorer from nationals after producing six goals and an assist in six games there last year.
Skaggs, an Ohio State University recruit, is one of five players who fit the description of both being national tournament veterans and Division I recruits.
Jesse Compher, who played on the gold-medal winning U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team and has committed to Boston College, and Mercyhurst College recruit Nicole Guagliardo are forwards who produced four points at nationals last season.
The defense includes national championship veterans Kendra Nealey (Cornell University) and Dakota Golde (St. Lawrence University).
Forwards Maddy Burton (Merrimack College), Valerie Caldwell (University of Vermont), Katie Cipra (Northeastern University) and Shea Marie Nelson (Penn State University) and defensemen Nicole LaMantia (University of Wisconsin) and Greta Skarzynski (Yale University) are the other Division I commitments.
The other returnees from the national champions include goalie Amber Samonek, who had two wins and a 0.77 goals against average at nationals last season.
Kate Fanning scored two goals from her position on defense last season. Kelly O’Sullivan, another returning gold medalist, adds to the strength of the defense.
Lauren Rogers and Bridget Wagner are the other returning forwards.
The Mission also has 16U and 14U teams at nationals after receiving at-large bids.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.