BLAINE, Minn. -- Sometimes, all it takes is one goal to get a team going.
That seemed to be the case for the East Coast Wizards in the 14U gold medal game Monday morning at the Toyota-USA Hockey Girls Tier I 14U National Championships. They beat Chicago Mission 4-0.
“We just stuck to our game plan,” said Wizards coach Peter Seibold. “We just do our job, and everyone does their job well. Today, everybody did it perfectly.”
After a scoreless first period that included plenty of battling for puck possession, the Wizards opened the scoring floodgates at 7:44 of the second and took a 1-0 lead.
“It was just a scrum in front of the net,” Seibold said.
Ciara Wall was the player who scored that first one. She saw one of her teammates take the puck down the ice and take an initial shot. The puck wasn’t corralled until it was in the back of the net.
“There was tons of rebounds,” Wall said. “It just kept being loose. So I just kept hitting the rebounds and just hoping it would go in.”
Turns out, that’s all the Wizards needed. Jenna Hallice gave them a 2-0 lead as the second period wound down. A “hard-working goal,” her coach said. Hallice added two assists for the game, as did Molly Griffin.
They were cruising in the third when Natalie Tulchinsky put the Wizards up 3-0 at the 4:53 mark. Wall scored her second goal of the game by putting the puck into an empty net as time ticked down, closer to their gold medal celebration.
Wizards goaltender Maggie Emerson made 20 saves for the shutout win.
“It feels amazing to be national champions,” Wall said. “We worked all season for this day.”
The road to the final game wasn’t easy. The Wizards lost 3-1 to Team Wisconsin Friday in pool play.
“We kind of got down on each other for the first time all year,” Seibold said.
So, they did a little team bonding, re-grouped, re-focused and just kept going. They took care of Syracuse Nationals 6-2, then beat Detroit Little Caesars 1-0 in overtime in the quarterfinals and then dispatched Mid Fairfield 4-1 to earn their spot in the championship game.
There’s that saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Well, the Wizards seem to have that down.
“We play as five,” Seibold said. “There’s no individual. We frown upon the individual play. We play as five. We always have.”
Wall echoed his sentiments about playing as a team. They all backcheck and play their positions, she said.
“We trust each other on the ice,” Wall said.
The road to the title game didn’t just start last week. The East Coast Wizards played together in the fall up until about Thanksgiving, split up to play their respective high school seasons. They also lost a game in their state tournament.
“Then we won every game until the end,” Seibold said. “We won the state championship, and we earned our way here.”
After the gold medals were handed out Monday, Seibold took a phone call from assistant coach Steve Armstrong. He wasn’t at the tournament with the team but still watched every game. He gave input throughout the games, even in between periods, Seibold said.
“He’s a big part of this team,” Seibold said.
It’s the first national championship for the 14U East Coast Wizards, a program that finished with silver medals three years in a row from 2012-14. The Wizards won the 12U national championship in 2010.
It feels great to win, Seibold said.
“They’re the nicest girls,” he said. “For them to win it, I’m happy for them.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.