MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — The newly-crowned national champion North Shore Vipers rode the sought-after talent of goaltender Lilly Tague-Bleau throughout the Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II Nationals.
The Hillside Middle School (Manchester, New Hampshire) student, who ran the table in pool play with three consecutive shutouts, is slated to attend the program at Cushing Academy headed by former Providence College defenseman Valerie Bono.
“She’s a gamer; the best goalie I ever had,” said head coach Chris Papamechail following a tightly-contested win over their New England rivals the Charles River Blazers. Tague-Bleau will be linked with a familiar face at her new school in defenseman Shea Frost, who was also a major contributor to the Vipers success.
“She has a lot of grit and is aware on the ice in defensive situations,” said Papamechail.
As for reaching Nationals, Papamechail spoke of the competitiveness and familiarity of the teams within the region prior to heading into the championship.
“The Massachusetts state tournament is a meat grinder, any team has the ability to win it. I thought about how happy they would be if we got to this point,“ he said.
The Vipers were told that a special surprise was in store for them following their victory, and indeed it was. Olympic gold medalist and Danvers, Massachusetts native Meghan Duggan visited the champions, later tweeting, “My pleasure! Congrats on a successful end to the season! Seeing the looks on their faces was priceless.”
Blazers head coach Chris Mullen’s club had the tournament’s top three scorers coming out of pool play in Livia Brooks, Elisabeth Rourke, and Cori Miller. The Blazers enjoyed a +15 goal differential in the opening three games while the eventual champs stood at +14.
Three overtime games transpired among 14U, with one going to a lengthy shootout as the Nova Ice Dogs needed 12 rounds to take a 2-1 victory over the East Coast Wizards. The Ice Dogs’ Grace Romero whose first two bids were unsuccessful, made good on her third shot of the shootout for the victory. Other overtime wins went to the Casco Bay Mariners and the West Chester Quakers.
Trekking 4552 miles from Alaska to the East Coast is undoubtedly a major challenge, particularly if the task is to play high-level hockey for the better portion of five days. For the defending national champion Anchorage North Stars, who arrived in Marlborough with less than adequate time to settle in as well as take in the hockey landscape, the logistics as well as the inevitable wear and tear effects on the body and mental capacity were daunting.
“The time change has been the biggest mental aspect for us, we’ve tried to get adjusted to it,” said head coach James McDermott whose club fell to the Shoreline Sharks in the semifinals 3-1. “It’s the big stage, we don’t have quite the competition that everybody else has. There are a lot more people out here that we’re not used to seeing, it’s pretty big for us and a lot of the girls were a little overwhelmed I think coming in.”
The North Stars traveled east with a completely retooled squad, perhaps yet another factor in the climb to the finals.
“We basically had a clean slate,” said North Stars assistant Andy Mumford. “We started out with one goalie and 14 kids and began getting on the same page and over the course of the year, and even over the course of this tournament, they all came together and basically had each other’s backs out there.”
Brianna Paxson led the Stars in scoring with six points (3-3-6).
Last spring, the North Stars relied heavily on a superb defensive presence in wresting the gold medal from a determined Vermont Shamrocks squad. For McDermott and Mumford, it’s about constructing a solid base of overall team qualities at the outset. “This is absolutely a total rebuild, we’re starting fresh,” said the head coach. “There’s a major challenge ahead of us but this was a good way to start. We’d like to back at this point in the next couple of years.”
The aforementioned Duggan took part in a ceremonial puck drop of the title game between the Vermont Shamrocks and the Shoreline Sharks.
Despite missing out in advancing to bracket play, the Princeton Tiger Lillies displayed a formidable offensive duo in Sarah Cudmore and Cassie Campbell; the pair combining for five goals and seven points. Defenseman Abbey Barcless finished with six assists.
San Jose goaltender Angela Hawthorne, who backstopped the Sharks to a national title a year ago in Troy, Michigan, was on point once again in Marlborough. The Cupertino High School student/athlete played 295 minutes, finishing with four wins and a .915 save percentage. The Santa Clara resident, a reliable veteran of nearly 100 games between the pipes for the Sharks organization in seven seasons previously competed in the area, attended the Beantown Women’s Classic in 2016.
With teammate, tournament leading scorer and top prospect Evelyne Blais-Savoie who finished with 10 points in the mix, the Sharks are looking to regenerate the magic that has brought them to consecutive championship games.
Alaska All-Stars forwards Carly Glover and teammate Madeline Millar took the goals and assist titles, respectively, and East Coast Wizards goalie Gabriella DiComitis registered six victories in topping the leaderboard. The Rhode Islander has committed to St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont for 2018.
The Nova Ice Dogs shot out of the gate, taking three consecutive wins in pool play, with a goal differential of +9. The Northern Virginia club who fell to an upstart Wisconsin Selects team 4-3 in bracket action, outscored their opponents 28-1 in the USA Hockey Southeastern District Tournament. Haley Battles (Prince Frederick, Maryland) led the team with five goals and seven points while in Marlborough.
The Selects took both of the shootouts in the division, following up an opening day win over Team South Dakota with a 2-1 triumph over the Boston Shamrocks, less than 24 hours later. Defenseman Morgan Treml (Neenah, Wisconsin) potted the game-winner.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc