MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — With strong special teams play in their favor, the East Coast Wizards strode past the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in the title game of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 19U Nationals at the New England Sports Center.
Killing off a quartet of San Jose penalties, while scoring two power plays of their own, put the winners in good stead, particularly in the middle period when they received a pair of decisive markers, less than two minutes apart.
The Californians, led by goalie Angela Hawthorne held strong in the opening stanza. They rebuffed a concerted effort by the Wizards whose aggressive forecheck eventually paid off at 10:51 when Sophia Whittaker, with a helper from Rachel DiFraia, snapped the scoreless tie, tapping the puck home in the middle of a goalmouth scramble while skating with the advantage.
“We were confident that eventually we’d be able to break through,” said Wizards head coach Mike Milofsky “Our girls battled hard and stayed positive and that gave us confidence that we’d get one eventually in the first.”
Elizabeth Burke notched an unassisted goal for the Sharks (4:25) in the early going of the middle period, buzzing a shot past Wizards goalie Gabriella Dicomitis. But the newly minted champions responded in kind, just four minutes later, registering their second power play goal off the stick of Katerina Nikolopoulos. DiFraia added her second assist of the contest on captain Emily Smith’s insurance goal at 10:52. Nikolopoulos led the Wizards with three power play scores to go along with six goals and an assist over the course of the tournament.
“We have a chemistry, even though we didn’t have that many practices together this season.” said Smith, who skates for the Rivers School in nearby Weston, Massachusetts. “Seeing everyone happy today is the best thing I could hope for.”
The Sharks took up visible momentum in the final period, but failed to close the gap on the Wizards who extinguished an early disadvantage just two minutes in.
“We have a tendency to not play well in the [early] third period and that gets frustrating for us, we let down a bit,” said Smith, who finished with a team-leading eight points (6-2-8). “Other than that, we did a better job today than in the semifinals game [a 4-1 win over Wisconsin Selects] where we had begun playing down somewhat. We overcame that today, later in the game.”
San Jose’s Evelyne Blais-Savoie led her club in scoring, similar to what she did in the 2017 tournament (7-0-0), with 10 points on six goals and four assists. Marisa Trevino completed the tournament with a stat line of 4-3-7. The Sharks advanced to the championship game following a 3-0 win over the rival Alaska All-Stars.
“When we do get together [at limited practices], we emphasize the importance of puck movement over and over and working hard for each other,” said Milofsky. “We’ve got kids coming from a variety of schools throughout New England and they are really challenged doing a variety of things, so the fact that these girls are able to pull it all together not only as hockey players, but as a cohesive unit, says a lot about the quality of their character.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc