The Connecticut Northern Lights remained in title contention all the way until overtime of the 19U championship game at the USA Hockey Girls Tier II National Championships a year ago.
The Northern Lights are back for another shot this year after qualifying for the 2017 edition of the tournament, in Troy, Michigan, April 6-10, by winning the New England District title in March. They fell 2-1 to the host Vermont Shamrocks in the 2016 national championship game.
After losing their first two games at the district tournament, the Northern Lights won three straight, avenging both losses, to take the title. They beat the Concord Capitals 2-1 in the semifinals and the Maine Wild 3-0 in the final.
The defense held all five opponents to two goals or less, giving up a total of seven goals in five tournament games.
“Our defense and goaltending are what it’s all about,” said Mike Carrera, Northern Lights assistant coach. “We don’t have explosive offense, but we’re solid in our own end.”
It took overtime in the championship game a year ago before the Northern Lights gave up two goals in a game for the first time in the tournament. They allowed just four goals total in six games.
Carrera said this season’s defense might be even stronger.
“Our defense is much faster, much quicker, better with puck possession, better puck moving,” Carrera said.
University of Maine recruit Madeline Giordano was third in the entire national tournament in goals (five) and tied for second in points (eight) a year ago. She again led the team in scoring at the district tournament.
The rest of the team’s players are all committed to play college hockey on the NCAA Division III level.
Michaela Carrera, who scored the game-winning goal in the district semifinal, and Mackenzie Griffith are the veterans on the defense.
Hannah Stone and Morgan Peters are both back in goal. Stone had two shutouts at 2016 Nationals, while Peters had one shutout and stopped 68 of the 69 shots she faced to post an 0.47 goals-against average.
Forwards Gabrielle Roy and Isabella Dibattista are also back, giving the Northern Lights seven players who have a second shot at the title.
Girls’ Tier I
14U: Mid-Fairfield Stars
16U: Mid-Fairfield Stars
19U: Mid-Fairfield Stars
Girls’ Tier II
14U: Shoreline Sharks
16U: Vermont Shamrocks
19U: Connecticut Northern Lights
Defense and Nationals experience are an even bigger part of the story for the Mid-Fairfield Stars.
The Connecticut-based program is loaded with national tournament experience, particularly on the 19U team that has players dating back to when 12U titles were still contested.
The Stars dominated the New England Girls Tier I tournaments, taking all three titles — 19U, 16U and 14U — by outscoring the opposition by a combined 49-6 in eight games, including 17-2 in the three finals.
This is the third straight year that Mid-Fairfield swept New England and sent teams to all three Girls Tier I tournaments.
The Stars will have some of the most battle-tested national tournament players in the USA Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships from April 6-10 in Rochester/Macomb, Michigan.
Meghan Halloran is at Nationals for the seventh straight year. Courtney DeNaut and Sarah Ince are making their sixth straight trip. Several other members of the 19U and 16U teams are playing in their fifth, fourth or third national tournaments with the Stars, and there are also some players who have Nationals experience with other programs.
The Stars 19U team got caught up in three defensive battles a year ago, falling 1-0, 2-1 and 2-0.
Throughout New England, most teams play split seasons, spending the bulk of the winter with their high school or prep teams, then reuniting after those seasons are complete and/or getting together during a few long weekends in the season.
Mid-Fairfield’s teams are made up of players who are either from Connecticut or play at prep schools in the state.
The Stars 19U team includes Sharon Frankel, Madie Leidt and Cameron Leonard, who were all Division 1 First Team All-Star choices in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council.
Kristina Schuler and DeNaut, a goalie, were each all-NEPSAC honorable mentions.
Jessica Schryver, another all-NEPSAC honorable mention, is on the Stars 16U team.
Among the college recruits on the 19U team are seniors who are headed to NCAA Division I schools next year, including Linda Essery to Dartmouth, Maddie Fouts to Brown, Frankel to Princeton, Leonard to Penn State, Keely Moy to Harvard and Schuler to Boston University.
There is also Nationals experience among the coaches.
Moe Tarrant had national tournament success with similar Connecticut teams playing under different names before starting the Mid-Fairfield Stars in 2008. He has worked with Ryan Equale coaching many of the teams, including both the 19U and 16U squads this season as well as the 2011 14U champions and 2014 16U finalists.
“Our players come from many different parts of the country and the world, they go to a variety of different schools and have different personal goals,” Equale said. “Of the many things we are proud of this season is the players’ ability and willingness to align to common goals and make the plays and sacrifices that are in the best interest of the team.”
Frankel, Leidt and Schryver are teammates at Loomis Chaffee, a boarding school in Windsor, Connecticut, along with two other 19U and four other 16U players.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|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|
Tag(s): District Tourney News