The girls on this year’s 19U Boston Junior Eagles team are veterans of the USA Hockey Nationals.
Coming up through the ranks, the group has won two Tier I national titles and been to five straight nationals. That streak was in jeopardy in November, when the Eagles dropped a round-robin game 3-1 to the East Coast Wizards.
“It was a little bit of a wakeup call when they beat us,” said Mike Mullowney, Junior Eagles coach.
The two teams found themselves squaring off again in the USA Hockey Massachusetts District Tournament championship game. The Wizards had nothing to lose as they were already a lock for nationals as the host team for the tournament taking place in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
The title game was deadlocked at 1 after two periods when the Eagles went up 3-1 following a goal by Northeastern commit Miceala Sindoris late in regulation. The Wizards pulled their goalie and scored with one minute remaining, but the Eagles hung on.
“We knew they would push us hard,” Mullowney said. “We’ve had a lot of success together, so I think our experience paid off at the end.”
The Eagles have been in so many tight games over the years, they never panic.
The team relied on its defense down the stretch and U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team goalie Lindsay Reed came through.
“Our D’s been great all year,” Mullowney said. “We’ve got some real horses back there.”
The Eagles had a strong fall season and feature 11 NCAA Division I commits and two other high-level players who have yet to announce their intentions.
As 16U players last season, the Eagles went into nationals as the top-ranked team in the country, but went a disappointing 1-2 at the tournament. This tight-knit group of players is seeking redemption and a chance to cap their youth careers with a national championship at 19U.
“We’re using last year as motivation; we don’t want to lose again,” Mullowney said. “We know there’s some really quality teams in the tournament again, but we feel like when we play our best that we’re a really hard team to beat.”
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Youth Tier I
14U: Boston Jr. Terriers
15O: Boston Advantage
16U: Boston Jr. Eagles
18U: Cape Cod Whalers
Youth Tier II
14U: South Shore Kings
16U: Neponset Valley River Rats
18U: Springfield Rifles
Girls Tier I
14U: Assabet Valley
16U: Boston Jr. Eagles
19U: Boston Jr. Eagles
Girls Tier II
14U: East Coast Wizards
16U: Islanders Hockey Club
19U: Boston Shamrocks
Stephanie Wood Leads Islanders to Nationals
For the fifth time in her eight years coaching the Islanders Hockey Club, Stephanie Wood has brought her team to nationals. The USA Hockey Level 4-certified coach is guiding the Islanders’ 16U Tier II team.
“Particularly here in Massachusetts, sometimes it’s a tough task to get there because we have to play off to get there,” said Wood, who along with being a coach is the Islanders Hockey Club women’s director. “It’s always the highlight of your season. It’s great because obviously in the position I’m in now, player to coach, I’m able to give back to these kids. I think, especially for kids at the older levels, it’s a great thing for their careers. It’s great exposure, so I can help them with that process.”
Wood, who played at Northeastern University for four years, has had a great season in the coaching ranks. During the high school season, she’s the coach at Austin Prep, which was ranked No. 1 in the state most of the year. Her team advanced to the state semifinals before falling.
“A lot of success,” said Wood about coaching this season. “It’s always exciting. As a coach, you always like to try to obviously see your team do the best that you can. I think getting to coach in big games is always exciting.”
The Islanders (11-5-4) played well in the district tournament in November to qualify for nationals. The team went 2-1 in round-robin play, falling to the Massachusetts Spitfires 5-3.
The Islanders downed the East Coast Wizards in the semifinals 2-1 in overtime. In the championship game, the Islanders got redemption against the Spitfires, scoring a 3-0 victory.
Wood saw a different team emerge in the title game than the group that lost in the round robin.
“They were hungry to get back to nationals and I think, too, a big win in the semifinal game over the Wizards gave us much more confidence,” Wood said.
The core group of this year’s team played in nationals at 14U two years ago and went 0-3. Expectations are higher this time around.
“We would love to see ourselves in the playoff round,” Wood said. “I think making a semifinal game at the minimum would be outstanding. Getting into that top four, that mix, I think that once you get to that point as well with a tight tournament or tight competition, anything could happen. I think that’s a great goal for us, and I also think it’s realistic for us as well.”