WARRENDALE, Pa. — The Steel City Selects are taking a complete traveling party to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier II Girls Nationals again this year.
For the third straight year, Steel City swept all three Tier II girls championships at the USA Hockey Mid-American District Tournament. With their titles, won March 11 at the Baierl Ice Rink, the Selects 14U, 16U and 19U teams all earned the right to compete at Nationals April 5-9 in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
While the program as a whole is established at Nationals, the 14U team is almost entirely new and there are newcomers on both the 16U and 19U teams.
Jeff Tindall, the director of player development who coaches the 16U team and had coached the 19U team up until December, had his eyes on those newcomers throughout the district championship weekend.
Tindall did his best to tell his team to simply concentrate on playing hard and that “it was just another game,” playing with a national berth on the line.
“There’s always a little bit of nervousness and probably, it’s a little bit scary because of the magnitude of the game,” Tindall said. “… They’ve never competed at an event like this.
“I’m pretty proud of all of them. They rose to the occasion pretty well. I was watching those players a little bit more to see how they reacted and they seemed to fit in well.”
Steel City pulled out a one-goal championship game win, won a round-robin tiebreaker and broke open another one-goal championship game in the third period.
The Steel City 16U team that Tindall coaches has the most nationals experience, including players moving up from 14U a year ago.
Lauren Callahan had a goal and two assists to lead Steel City’s 16U team to a 4-0 victory over Gilmour for the district title.
“I’d say there was a little bit of nerves coming out,” Tindall said. “We had a one-goal lead after two, then we came out and scored three in the third period.”
Kylie Veters opened the scoring on the power play midway through the second period. Becca Hogan had a goal and an assist. She scored 1:51 into the third period for the two-goal lead. Rose Cascio added an empty-netter.
Grace Johnson scored the game-winner for the 19U squad, her second of the game, with 2:11 left to lift Steel City over the Armstrong Arrows, 2-1.
“She’s a young 16 that’s playing 19s,” Tindall said. “She really took over.”
The game became a title matchup when each got past the Mid-State Mustangs in the first two games of the round-robin. Steel City won, 4-0, before Armstrong won, 4-3, in overtime.
Amara Marrese assisted Johnson on a second-period power-play goal to erase a 1-0 deficit for the Selects with the title at stake.
Katelyn Hill made 38 saves in the win.
Armstrong’s Hannah Fondren had a hat trick, including the overtime winner against Mid-State.
The three teams in the 14U tournament were extremely evenly matched. Two of the three round-robin games went to shootouts and the other was decided on a goal with 1:26 left in regulation. That regulation win wound up making the difference for Steel City and was what secured the title once the Selects made it into overtime in the event’s final game.
“They had to be beaten in regulation,” Tindall said of the Selects, explaining why the Lady Barons pulled their goalie late in a 2-2 tie to no avail. “If you watched in the game, they didn’t know they had made it. They played overtime and the shootout like they had to win.
“They did not realize that it was over.”
Steel City racked up a 9-2 shot advantage in the five-minute overtime after being outshot, 24-23, in regulation.
Eventually, the Lady Barons got the consolation prize of a 3-2 shootout victory.
Carla Schwerzer scored twice for the Lady Barons to wipe out a 2-0 deficit and Emma Stanley had the shootout game-winner.
Laura Crnarich, in the first period, and Robyn Coswell, in the second, scored to give the Selects their two-goal lead.
The title was a result of a power-play goal by Cameran Evans with 1:26 left in a 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets. Dylan Green and Crnarich had the assists.
Karri Albertini made 10 saves for the shutout.
Ali Caskey had the shootout winner for the Blue Jackets in a 3-2 victory over the Lady Barons. Logan Card had 30 saves and came through in goal in the shootout.
The Lady Barons also overcame a 2-0 deficit in that game, scoring twice in the last 8:33.
Last year’s 19U bronze medal was the best nationals finish for the selects. The 16U team also made the quarterfinals last year. The 14U and 16U teams made the 2016 quarterfinals.
The 16U team is making a fifth straight nationals appearance while the 19U team is going for the first time in six years. The 14U team first made it in 2016, starting the three-year streak of the program sweeping the district.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc