Stars advance in highly-contested matchup
On paper, Saturday’s 19U game between the Mid-Fairfield CT Stars and the East Coast Wizards was just one of three preliminary round games for each team.
But this game meant much more than that.
These two east coast powers faced off late Saturday evening at the Tier I Girls National Championship at Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester, Mich. In a game that had a razor-thin margin of errors, the Stars prevailed 2-1 and advanced to the semifinals thanks to some late-game heroics.
When the schedule for this year’s tournament was released, both Mid-Fairfield coach Moe Tarrant and Scott Fusco said it looked quite likely that these two teams’ Saturday matchup would be for a spot in the final four.
Aside from the teams’ prestigious histories, both rosters feature girls playing at high-level prep schools on the east. Some of the girls playing against each other Saturday play on the same high school team.
And as the coaches predicted, this game had sky-high stakes. Both teams rolled into Saturday’s de facto pool play championship game. But this game was not going to be a cakewalk for either squad.
From the moment the puck was dropped, the magnitude of this game could be seen by the play on the ice.
With plenty of physicality and tight defense, the crowd was on the edge of its seats. They reacted boisterously to every hit and held their breath on each offensive opportunity.
“We expected it was going to take all our ammo,” Fusco said. “We told our girls after the second period that it was going to be a rebound or a tip.”
With both teams giving each other little room to move the puck, Mid-Fairfield’s Kaleigh Quennec found a small opening and converted on a shot from a tight angle that proved to be the game-winning goal. This shot was just what Tarrant wanted.
“From the 10-minute mark on, I told them to get the puck to the net. I didn’t care how strange the shot was,” Tarrant said.
After Quennec’s goal, Mid-Fairfield did anything it could to keep East Coast away from the net and did so successfully. But the final few minutes didn’t come without a number of near-goals for the Wizards. Thankfully for the Stars, goalie Courtney DeNaut came through with 20 saves on 21 shots.
With the game ending after 11 p.m. on Saturday, there is less than 24 hours until Mid-Fairfield is back on the ice against a strong opponent. The Stars will take on defending national champion Shattuck-St. Mary’s on Sunday for a spot in Monday’s national championship game.
“This tournament is like a prize fight. You don’t get to roll over anyone,” Tarrant said. “Any time you can get that extra roll, you’ll take it. Tonight, we were lucky enough to have that chance. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
St. Louis Lady Blues 3, Assabet Valley 1: The St. Louis Lady Blues' play in the final two minutes of the second period and the first two minutes of the third period were key to the Lady Blues' 3-1 victory against Assabet Valley. Gabriella Puccio-Johnson got St. Louis going with a goal late in the second, and Joy Dunne extended the Lady Blues' lead with a goal early in the third. Despite a third-period goal Assabet Valley's Carly Stefanini, the Lady Blues prevailed. Kaitlin Finnegan sealed the victory with an empty-net goal for St. Louis.
East Coast Wizards 4, Detroit Little Caesars 2: In a battle for a spot in the semifinals, the 14U East Coast Wizards prevailed 4-2 in a battle with Detroit Little Caesars. With less than two minutes remaining, Paige Larose gave the Wizards a 3-2 after battling it out in front of the net. Anna Bargman put the victory on ice after an empty net goal with just seconds remaining. It was Bargman's second goal of the afternoon.
Anaheim Lady Ducks 3, Detroit Honeybaked 2 (SO): After erasing a two-goal deficit in regulation, the Anaheim Lady Ducks defeated Detroit Honeybaked in the first shootout of this year's tournament. Sarah Hirst and Alexandra Bye each scored to get this game into overtime. Once the two teams reached the shootout, Lady Ducks goalie Brooke Marella stole the show. She stopped all five Honeybaked shots, and Anaheim's Lisa Ito-Bagshaw scored the Lady Duck's only shootout goal.
New Jersey Colonials 5, Mid Fairfield CT Stars 4 (OT): After losing their first two games in this year's tournament, the 14U New Jersey Colonials finished off their tournament with an overtime win against the Mid Fairfield CT Stars. The game was a roller coaster, with the Colonials jumping out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Alyssa Wruble and Emily Barling. After falling behind 4-3, Caroline Keswin scored to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, an unassisted goal from Emma Taigounov gave New Jersey the victory.
Belle Tire 2, Boston Jr Eagles 0: Goals from Anna Segedi and Delanie Goniwiecha were all 16U Belle Tire needed to defeat the Boston Jr Eagles and move into Sunday's semifinals. Along with the timely goals, Belle Tire goalie Frankie Sanchez stood tall and stopped all 30 shots she faced Saturday.
East Coast Wizards 4, Mid Fairfield CT Stars 2: The 16U East Coast Wizards finished preliminary round undefeated following a 4-2 win against the Mid Fairfield CT Stars. Natalie Tulchinsky led the way with two goals while Molly Griffin and Delaney Couture each tallied goals for East Coast. The Wizards will now move onto Sunday's semifinals.
Pittsburgh Pen Elites 4, Chicago Mission 3 (SO): Despite giving up a goal to the tie game late in the third period, the 16U Pittsburgh Pen Elites prevailed in a hotly contested game against the Chicago Mission. After missing their first three shootout attempts, Lauren Bernard and Chayla Edwards saved Pittsburgh with goals that gave them a spot in the semifinals. Pens Elite goalie Gwyneth Phillips came up big, giving up just one goal in the five-round shootout.
Chicago Young Americans 1, Shattuck-St. Mary's 0 (SO) : 19U Shattuck-St. Mary's will enter Sunday's semifinals looking to rebound from a shootout loss to the Chicago Young Americans. Hayley Kliczko shutdown the defending national champions with 38 saves and held the Sabres scoreless in the shootout. Caitlin Schneider and Anne Bloomer provided both shootout goals for Chicago in the upset.
Detroit Honeybaked 5, Niagra Jr Purple Eagles 4 (OT): After striking in the first and third periods, KJ Blumberg came through with her third goal of the evening in overtime to give 19U Detroit Honeybaked a victory in its preliminary round finale against the Niagra Jr Purple Eagles. While trailing by two goals in the third period, Blumberg started the rally. A little more than two minutes later, Grace Canty knotted the game up at 4. Then, it was Blumberg again who came through late in the five minute overtime period.