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Elite Sky Blue Hope to Put on a Good Show on Home Ice

By Heather Rule - Special to USAHockey.com, 04/02/16, 10:15AM MDT

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Minnesota 16U team gets the rare chance to play close to home at nationals

 

BLAINE, MINN. -- Abigail Boreen scored a pure hat trick Thursday in her team’s first game at the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 16U National Championships.

The second-period goals came at 9:00, then an unassisted goal 10 seconds later and at the 13:35 mark. She provided the bulk of the offense for MN Elite Sky Blue’s 4-1 victory over California Wave.

“It was kind of fun,” Boreen said. “Kind of got the whole bench going.”

She got a couple of good breakouts, took advantage and buried her chances, the first on a 2-on-1 try. Coach Bethany Brausen was definitely impressed with Boreen’s efforts.

“You saw her perform like crazy today,” Brausen said. “She did really well.”

It was a needed spark for Sky Blue, after skating to a scoreless tie at the end of the first period. They only registered seven shots on goal the first 17 minutes.

“The other team just came out with so much more jump than we did,” Brausen said. “You could tell they just had a lot more energy.”

They regrouped in the first intermission and picked up the pace. Sky Blue’s offensive pressure increased, while it seemed California’s players grew more tired, Brausen said. Perhaps that was the benefit of having a four-line team.

Those four lines are made up of some of the best girls’ hockey players in Minnesota. The chance to play at nationals is a bit unique to the Minnesota teams.

“It’s a great experience to represent your own state,” Boreen said.

They aren’t like many of the other teams from across the country at nationals that practice together and play 60 to 80 games throughout the year.

Sky Blue brings together high school players from across the state that play their school season before the Elite spring league games that take the place of practice. As a product of no team practices, they don’t have a set forecheck or power play, which can be seen as a disadvantage.

Forward Sara McClanahan has a different take though.

“I almost like not having set plays,” she said. “Because I just kind of enjoy going out there, playing … and being more creative. It helps creativity.”

Playing at nationals this year presented a unique opportunity for Sky Blue — essentially right in their backyard.

“Locationally, it just worked out,” Brausen said. “I think they’re really looking at this tournament to prove that Minnesota hockey is alive and well, and that we can compete with the best teams out there.”

The players are honored to have the chance to play at nationals this year. McClanahan, who scored the fourth goal and had an assist versus California, also sees it as a learning experience where she can improve her game, plus she gets to play specifically with her age group.

“I feel that it makes us better hockey players,” McClanahan said. “It definitely benefits me personally.”

Even though they don’t practice as a team, the girls take it upon themselves to make sure their games are in tip-top shape. Sometimes it’s actually too much of a good thing. More often than not, Brausen finds herself telling the team to take more time off from the rink, so they’re not training more than they need to.

Their roster is filled with talented players, including Taylor Heise, a sophomore who’s already committed to play for the University of Minnesota. Brausen describes Sky Blue as a finesse team with a roster that doesn’t really have a weak spot.

“I think for us, it becomes more about not necessarily needing to develop that talent but using it wisely,” Brausen said. “It’s more, how much energy are they going to bring?

“But they have not disappointed in that aspect.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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