MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — First time was the charm for the Wisconsin Selects at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 19U Nationals.
Making their initial foray on the grand stage as a 19U club, and guided by head coach Sarah Krebs and assistant Steve Kirley, the Selects, an admittedly unknown entity coming in, staged a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win over a persistent Team South Dakota.
Krebs, a former Mercyhurst standout, and Kirley, a newly-minted member of the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame, watched as their team battled back from a one-goal deficit in the waning moments of regulation; evening the score on Zoe Sternberg’s marker at 14:29.
In the shootout, the Wisconsin team relied on the talent of goalie Emily Nettesheim, who registered 43 stops in the game before putting an exclamation point on the win in stopping all four South Dakota bids.
“We have a unique situation, it’s a before and after team,” said Krebs. “It’s hard for us to get together because most of our girls are from all over the state and that creates obvious difficulties for us.”
With some players a four- or five-hour drive apart, planning for a high-level tournament insists on utilizing creativity from the staff.
“There’s constant texting between the coaches and the girls,” said Kirley. “There is a lot of drawing it up on the board and hoping they can execute in game situations, utilizing our time when we are all together is important,” added Krebs.
Fortunately for the overall prospects of the Selects, a majority of the players skate for their respective high school teams, according to Kirley.
“A lot of them are well-coached and they get a lot of ice time in the winter and they tend to pick it up from there,” he said.
After a crisp first, the Selects held a slim 2-1 advantage early in the middle period before the momentum shift turned South Dakota’s way, something that Krebs said is usually the case with a team with few practices under its belt.
“We had some breakdowns for sure but to get to the shootout we did some nice things along the way as well and we were able to capitalize. Our message to them after the second period was to let them know that playing hard consistently [in the third] would lead to good things happening,” she said.
“They stepped up when they had to, and for us, that is a good sign going forward for the remainder of the tournament,” said Kirley.
The Selects program, in its second year of existence, received a boost from the 16U team that finished third a year ago. “We do have half of the girls from that team, so we did come in with a bit of experience. That helped the new kids on the team prepare and know what to expect, so yes it was our debut, but it was nice to carry some experience into the tournament.” Krebs said.
“That puts the onus on us to be organized and we play everyone,” Kirley said. “We literally play 20 kids on this team-four lines and we roll them, so they all get a shot at it; that’s what they’re here for.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.