ASHBURN, Va. — They powered their way through the USA Hockey Southeastern District Girls Tier II Tournament March 15-18, outscoring opponents 34-2 in the span of four games. As a result, Northern Virginia Ice Dogs 19U are going national.
It’s a measure of revenge for Northern Virginia’s 19U squad, which missed a berth at last year’s nationals on a 3-2 heartbreaker to the local rival Reston Raiders for the district championship.
This time around, after running up a 12-0-0 mark in the Chesapeake Bay Hockey League’s regular season — amassing 70 goals and allowing just 11 — and sweeping through the CBHL tournament, the Ice Dogs encountered little resistance at districts. Northern Virginia opened with a 15-1 blowout over the Carolina Lady Eagles, then shut out the Potomac Lady Patriots and Nashville Admirals by respective scores of 5-0 and 8-0.
That was a prelude to the Ice Dogs’ 6-1 triumph over Potomac in the championship contest March 18 at the Ashburn Ice House in Ashburn, Va.
“What I saw the most was our desire to win, all weekend long,” said Northern Virginia 19U head coach Chris Battles. “The harder you work, the more benefit you’re going to get. We’ve worked really hard this season and they put it on display this weekend.”
In the championship tilt, six different Ice Dogs wrote their names into the scoring column, as Haley Battles, Emma Vinal, Lily Harp, Abby Crittenden, Brittney Collette and Sarah Brooks each punched the puck into the net. Crittenden, Collette and Vinal handed out an assist apiece.
In the closing minute of the first period, Harp registered a 5-on-3 goal to put Northern Virginia up 3-0.
“This is one of the few times this season when we’ve all been together as a group,” said Harp, a center in her fourth year in the program. “We have a lot of great chemistry. Throughout this tournament, it’s amazed me how well we moved the puck and getting up the ice.”
It was all in front of the goaltending duo of Sydney Stropes and Kathryn Rerko, who combined for 21 saves in the district clincher.
Kat Johnson notched Potomac’s sole goal in the last minute of the second period.
One of the strengths of Northern Virginia’s 19U team, Battles said, is its forechecking. The Ice Dogs focus on tenacious defense from the far blue line in.
“The harder we forecheck, the less we have to backcheck,” he pointed out.
Fundamentals preached in practice result in fewer mistakes, Battles said, as well as greater opportunities to capitalize on opponents’ miscues.
“These girls know it’s defense first and minimize mistakes, and we’ll have more chances to put the puck in the net.”
The Ice Dogs will get more opportunities to put the puck in the net when they travel to Marlborough, Massachusetts, for the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II Nationals, taking place April 5-9.
Many of these same players were on Northern Virginia’s 16U team that made it to the quarterfinals of last year’s nationals, falling to the eventual champion Anchorage North Stars.
“This team, collectively, has been there,” the head coach stated. “They learned a lot from that loss, and we think that will benefit us in the long run.”
The bulk of the Ice Dogs’ 19U roster are players who’ve been in the program for four or more years, with just two newcomers, Battles pointed out.
“This team is like a family, and it has a real desire to win hockey games. I think it may be our turn,” he said. “We’re going up there for a purpose: To represent our district and hopefully come back with a national championship.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc