MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — Kate Hagness ended a taut, tension-laden game with a third-period score, carrying the Shoreline Sharks to a 1-0 win over the Vermont Shamrocks in the 16U title game of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II Nationals.
Hagness logged the game-winner off a deflection from just outside the lower face-off circle to the left of Shamrocks goalie Leocadia Clark. Sharks co-leading scorer Taylor Nowak was credited with the assist. Nowak finished with seven points on four goals and three assists, while teammate Meagan Spring closed out her tournament action with three goals and four helpers.
Clark and Sharks goalie Carina Mancini became the focus almost from the get-go, making quality saves for their respective clubs. Heading into the middle period, crisp defensive play on both sides became the norm, and yet again, Clark and Mancini refused to let up.
Clark made a strong stop of a McAllister Dixon drive, originating from the face-off dot with five minutes expired on the clock. And with 2:27 remaining in the period, she halted a two-on-one rush which began in the neutral zone from the efforts of Spring and Meaghan Hogan. Seventy-five seconds later, Mancini saved a shot from the high slot off the stick of Madeline Young and the subsequent rebound from Allyson LaGue.
“She was off the charts today,“ Rodham said of his goalkeeper. “We’ve had outstanding play from both of our goalies in this tournament, but Carina stood on her head today.”
In the previous matchup between the two clubs, the Shamrocks prevailed 4-2.
“We actually felt like we had the momentum this time,” said winning head coach Ed Rodham. “We kept saying to put pucks on net and our goal was to play a sound defensive hockey game by getting pucks deep and out of the zone while keeping our forecheck going at all times. We hoped to go at them in waves and get one and ride our hot goaltender to a victory.”
“We were more prepared and were not as scared as last time,“ Mancini said of the second go-around with the Shamrocks. “We definitely knew what was coming, but deep down I think we all knew we had what it took to beat them.”
As for the stress felt on and off the ice for everyone involved as the clock advanced to the game’s waning moments, Mancini said, “I trust everyone in front of me. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net, but I relied on my defenseman who really did it all, forechecking and backchecking for the entire game.”
The Shamrocks goalie tandem of Clark and Madeleine Hungerford split work between the pipes, allowing only six goals in six games.
“We’ve had two phenomenal goalies along the way,“ said head coach Steve Young, who stayed with his practice of rotating keepers, mid-game. “Sometimes it’s a hard decision to make but when I can drop either of my goalies in the net and feel just as comfortable, that’s a good thing.”
“I think we allowed them to control the play in the previous game and in pace of play and in this game, we wanted to make sure we reversed it by taking the momentum to them. That's a very good hockey team; the best we’ve played all year. The team bought into the constant forecheck plan hook line and sinker over the last month, they were willing to do what it takes to get that done,“ said Rodham.
“I’m glad our girls played with heart, the same way we’ve done all year long,” said Young following the defeat; the second in a national title game in the last two seasons. “Hard to say what the difference was between the two games. I believe we had the upper hand in regionals but today I felt it was more of an even keel. As a team they came out hard against us, especially with their forecheck but we responded by playing the style we usually play and our girls responded well. We were able to get traffic in front on a few occasions; the goaltenders at this level you’re not going to beat them head-on.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.