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Michigan District: Little Caesars Leave No Doubt

By Greg Bates, 03/28/17, 10:30AM MDT


Tier I 14U girls ride momentum through to nationals

The Little Caesars Girls Tier I 14U hockey team wasn’t messing around in the state tournament.

The girls topped rival HoneyBaked 6-1 in the opening round. It was a statement game, said Little Caesars coach Paul Goleniak.

“Somebody sent me a text message after the game and they’re like, ‘Wow, way to come out and send a message a right away the first game of states,’” Goleniak said.

That was the start of an impressive week of hockey for Little Caesars. The team went 5-0 to win the Michigan District tournament and punch their ticket to the USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships in Rochester/Macomb, Michigan, on April 6-10.

Little Caesars downed Meijer 3-0 with three third-period goals, and beat Belle Tire 5-2 in the final game of round-robin action.

In the semifinals, Little Caesars was victorious again over Belle Tire, 4-2. Flying high, Little Caesars took down the Kensington Valley Ravens, 4-2.

The players have really come around in the last two months after some struggles early in the season.

“We had a group of first-year players and a group of second-year players, and the second-year players were in their first year of high school,” Goleniak said. “So there was a bit of this mix of dynamic, these girls that are going into high school and then these girls that are still in junior high. It was a bit of a separation in the team, because the older girls were a little bit more mature. We fought that battle a little bit.”

It took some time for the players to mesh. When they did start playing as one, they’ve been tough to stop despite played a tough schedule this season.

“We were scoring goals, but not finishing games the right way,” Goleniak said. “We lost a few games to HoneyBaked at the beginning of the season, and then probably around January we played HoneyBaked for I think our final regular-season game and we beat them. It was a game that the girls really battled hard. That was almost the game that turned things around for them where they finally came together as a team.”

Two girls on the team — Bella Komarowski and Grace Garby — went to Nationals last season with the 14U team. All the other players will compete for the first time on the big stage.

“With how we’ve been playing the last month in a half, two months, I feel good about their opportunity to have a good week,” Goleniak said.

District Champions

Girls Tier I

14U: Little Caesars

16U: Belle Tire

19U: Belle Tire

Girls Tier II

14U: Kensington Valley Ravens

16U: Livonia Knights

19U: Ann Arbor Cougars

Detroit Belle Tire Girls Tier I 16U Advances to Nationals

With many of the top teams clustered together in the Girls Tier I 16U Michigan District tournament, the title was up for grabs.

“It was anybody’s state championship to win,” said Dave Erwin, Belle Tire Girls 16U assistant coach. “It was the first time in years that you were kind of on edge wondering who’s going to do it this year, who’s got it.”

It was Belle Tire that rose to the top of the heap. Belle Tire outscored opponents 22-6 and earned five victories to advance to Nationals.

“We had a successful run to the championship and a tough road to get there,” Erwin said. “The kids really played hard and did a great job.”

Belle Tire (48-17-2) downed Compuware 7-0 to start the tournament, hung on to beat HoneyBaked 3-2 and then downed Little Caesars 4-1. In a rematch in the semifinals, Belle Tire handled HoneyBaked 3-0, before capturing the championship with a 5-2 win over Little Caesars.

“It was a special group of kids this year,” Erwin said. “We have some outstanding players, but as a group, it’s the first time in my 10 years of coaching girls hockey that I didn’t have any doubt in my mind. This team continues to play the way they always do — they’re so consistent. You just felt like it was going to happen for them. I was really happy to see that they’ve stuck to the plan and stuck to what’s made them a good team all year, which is the hard work and the teamwork. Happy it all came to fruition for them.”

Belle Tire has received contributions from every player up and down the roster this season, noted Erwin. The top line of Mikayla Lantto, Anna Segedi and Elana Zingas has played especially well.

“They are unbelievable together,” Erwin said. “In fact, I don’t know that I’ve seen a better three players work together the way they do.”

The Belle Tire players are excited to compete in Nationals this year. What’s even better is the 16U tournament will be held in their backyard in Rochester and Macomb, Michigan. The girls will be able to sleep in their own beds and get home-cooked meals.

“There’s an excitement around the building, around the locker room and on the ice,” Erwin said. It’s especially exciting being at home. We’re going to have an opportunity to play at local rinks and do it in front of a lot of friends and family. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing and have some success at the national tournament.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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2017 USA Hockey National Championship Sites

Division Location Host Dates
Youth Tier I (14U) Scottsdale, Arizona Arizona Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only) Scottsdale, Arizona Arizona Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier I (16U, 18U) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Penguins Elite April 6-10, 2017
Girls Tier I Rochester/Macomb, Michigan HoneyBaked Hockey Club April 6-10, 2017
Women's A, B, C Rochester/Macomb, Michigan HoneyBaked Hockey Club April 6-9, 2017
High School Cleveland, Ohio Cleveland Suburban Hockey March 22-26, 2017
Girls Tier II Troy, Michigan Troy Youth Hockey Association April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (14U) Coral Springs, Florida Florida Panthers Ice Den April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (16U) Frisco, Texas Texas Amateur Hockey April 6-10, 2017
Youth Tier II (18U) Lansing, Michigan Lansing Hockey Club April 6-10, 2017
Sled San Jose, California Sharks Ice April 6-9, 2017
Adult Rec Men's Wesley Chapel, Florida Florida Hospital Center Ice April 20-23, 2017
Adult Rec Women's Ellenton, Florida Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex April 27-30, 2017