MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — The North Shore Vipers used a three-goal, second-period burst on the way to a securing the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 14U Nationals championship over the East Coast Wizards at the New England Sports Center.
Breaking a 1-1 deadlock, the Vipers received goals from Maria Pierce, Lily Brazis and Julia Pellerin in what was the season culmination of a torrid East Coast rivalry.
“This is the eighth time playing them and although we know each other quite well, you can never take your foot off the gas; you always have to be wary of the talent they have,” said Vipers head coach Marty Pierce.
Pellerin recorded her first of two scores on the day at 3:28 of the opening period with an assist from Julia Small. Finley Griswold’s even-strength tally from Kathryn Rice and Abigail Mellen then evened things up for the Wizards before Brazis added the game-winner three minutes after Pierce’s go-ahead goal in the middle period.
The third featured limited quality offensive chances on both ends of the ice.
“They worked hard when they got down by two goals,” Pierce said. “Obviously, they wanted to pop one to get back in it but we made sure we kept one of our forwards high in their zone and continue to work the forecheck. I was also pleased to see our defenseman making good, smart decisions [in the third]. We have quite the rivalry, that’s just a great organization; they're unbelievable. I think that when you play them for the eighth time one has come to respect their players and their coaching staff.”
Wizards head coach Jay Rush agreed with his counterpart from the other end of things in offering perspective on the winner-take-all scenario.
“We’ve played these guys eight times now and we’re at four and four; it’s always tight games and you always expect great competition,“ Rush said. There is an animosity because we know each other so well, but if they were teammates, they would love each other.”
The winners connected on one of four extra skater opportunities, while the Wizards collected their sole power play score (also out of four attempts) from Mackenzie Cerrato in the second, closing the gap to 3-2.
“I think that the power play goal in the second period was a tough one, and honestly we failed to play our game, which is the frustrating thing for me,” said Rush. “For whatever reason, we were a little bit tight; that said the girls played well. It was a great back and forth, up and down game on both sides. Overall, I’m super proud of them. Honestly, this run has been the most fun I’ve had in 20 years of coaching, it’s been a blast.”
Goalie Lilly Tague-Bleau garnered the win for the Vipers, her sixth of the tournament, and Brazis and Mia Langlois tied with 11 points each in pacing the offense.
“I think the turning point of the game is when we answered them with the power play goals, that was the difference that we were able to capitalize on those chances that we had because they are such a good overall team defensively,” said Pierce. “Their goaltenders are big and strong and are able to collapse the house, but again they counter that with talented and strong forwards who are apt to create a problem on the end of it as well.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.