Any team that is clicking down the stretch is going to be a tough out at nationals.
The Kensington Valley Ravens Tier II 19U girls team is playing its best hockey when it’s needed the most.
The Ravens are 15-2-1 since early February. The team won the Steel City Invitational in mid-February, then won the USA Hockey Michigan District Tournament in early March and followed that up with the league title.
“I think these girls were sandbagging all year,” Ravens coach Tom Hall joked. “Although, they had a good year by definition, but we kind of knew they had more.”
Now, Kensington Valley will roll into the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 19U National Championships in Marlborough, Massachusetts, April 5-9, on a hot streak.
Hall believes his team took a little longer to mesh this season because it’s a new group of girls.
“You usually see it around the holidays, and it felt like this year we really started hitting on all cylinders in February,” Hall said. “You can just feel it, the locker room, there’s a lot of humor, there’s a lot of smiles. That general clamor that goes on when everyone’s having a good time talking and playing a little looser.”
Kensington Valley was designated as a Tier II organization this season, so a number of girls from last year’s 19U team moved to Tier I programs around the state.
“Gosh, I don’t know that there’s more than three girls not driving an hour or more,” Hall said. “We have a girl from Ohio, a girl is from upstate. We’ve got girls coming from all over Michigan to play on this team.”
Kensington Valley (41-13-11) opened the district tournament with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Marquette.
“That was our toughest game,” Hall said. “Once we got past that game it just set the tone and it felt like the girls had confidence and could close out any game.”
The Ravens followed with a 6-1 victory over the Troy Lady Sting and fell to the Petoskey Piranhas 2-1. With a 13-0 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Ravens advanced to the championship game against Petoskey.
Kensington Valley was 1-3-1 vs. Petoskey during the regular season but scored a 3-0 victory to win the state title.
“Our big scorers scored and their big scorers didn’t score,” Hall said. “And the game tightens up in these championship games and they just weren’t getting any opportunities. Our goaltending was incredible.”
Kensington Valley has had an incredible run this season despite having just 12 skaters on the roster.
“They are tireless and I can’t believe how hard they work,” Hall said. “They get stronger as the game goes along.”
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Youth Tier I
15 Only: Little Caesars
16U: Detroit Honeybaked
18U: Belle Tire
Youth Tier II
14U: Chelsea Chiefs
16U: Oakland Jr. Grizzlies
Girls Tier I
14U: Detroit Honeybaked
16U: Little Caesars
19U: Belle Tire
Girls Tier II
14U: Kensington Valley
16U: Kensington Valley
19U: Kensington Valley
At-Large Nationals Berth Winners
Girls Tier I
14U: Little Caesars
16U: Belle Tire
Girls Tier II
14U: Little Caesars
16U: Livonia Knights
Kensington Valley 16U Also Wins State
The Kensington Valley Ravens Tier II 16U team didn’t fare too well against rival Livonia during the regular season.
The Ravens went 0-2-2, but the two teams went undefeated in the state tournament. They were on a collision course to meet in the championship game. Throw out the regular-season records in that one.
Kensington Valley pulled off a 2-1 upset win over Livonia.
“We knew we were going to play Livonia, they were the best team,” Ravens coach Michael Wainwright said. “We just kind of knew we’d face them in the state finals. We drove towards that all year long, six months of that conversation. It’s really funny because that’s all we talked about. After we won, [the players are] like, ‘Coach Mike said it, he said it. That’s what we were going to do.’”
The Livonia squad features predominantly second-year players at the 16U level, while Kensington Valley is stacked with first-year girls.
“We got productivity from everybody on the bench,” Wainwright said. “We rolled the lines, everybody got equal time. It was a very rewarding experience.”
Wainwright’s girls played their best on the big stage.
“The girls really bought into the training program,” Wainwright said. “We had a lot of new faces, half of my team was brand new. We retained eight of the 15 [girls] we had last year.”
Just one week after beating Livonia in the state tournament, Kensington Valley downed Livonia 1-0 in the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League semifinals. The state title win wasn’t a fluke.
Kensington Valley (35-16-5) downed the Northern Michigan K-Stars 4-3 in the state tournament opener and beat the Troy Lady Sting 4-2 and Detroit HoneyBaked 6-0 to move to the championship.
“I’m just really proud of the way they worked all season and kind of had that goal,” Wainwright said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.