Lady Ducks, Jr. Ducks, Jr. Sharks, LA Traffic teams earn berths to USA Hockey Youth, Women’s Nationals
In a dramatic an ending as you will find, the San Jose Jr. Sharks’ 19U AA girls team found a way to extend its season and in turn, received one of the best possible rewards – a trip to the national championships.
The Jr. Sharks killed off four penalties in overtime, including a 5-on-3, before Evelyne Blais-Savoie scored the game-winner with under a minute to go in the extra period to edge Alaska 5-4 to win the Pacific District tournament March 5 and send the Jr. Sharks to Troy, Mich., for the USA Hockey Youth Nationals tournament from April 6-10.
“That was such an intense, back-and-forth game,” said Jr. Sharks coach Amanda Long. “We traded goals until we went up 4-2 and then not long after, they tied it up again. So we went into the third period tied 4-4, and both sides had huge opportunities and weren’t able to capitalize. I was a little worried that the pressure might begin to become a factor, but we still felt confident. We kept telling the girls that it was in their hands whether they wanted to advance or not, and they came through.”
After dropping the opening game of the tournament 2-1 to Alaska, Long said the team had to rebound quickly to get back on track.
“We kind of had a slow start at the beginning and we ended up losing that first game,” said Long. “We just weren’t at our best, but to our credit, we followed that up with a 4-0 win over Washington, which gave us a huge confidence boost. Going into Friday, the Anaheim Lady Ducks are obviously our in-state rivals and for us to go into that game and win it 9-2 really gave us a lot of momentum heading into the championship.”
While the bulk of the team will be making their first trip to a national championship, Long pointed out that several players – including defensemen Emily Burke and Theresa Chickles – were part of the 2011 12U Tier II Jr. Sharks team that captured the 2011 national championship in Anaheim. Long said it’s rewarding to see so many players, some of whom have been with the Jr. Sharks program for over a decade, get an opportunity to play at such a high level.
“The girls are ecstatic to have the opportunity to compete at nationals,” said Long. “There are some of these girls that have been doing this so long within the organization and they’ve put in so much time, effort and work that to have the opportunity to showcase themselves at the national level is something that’s really special.”
While the Jr. Sharks make plans to make the most of the opportunity a national championship tournament provides, five seniors are already weighing their options for next season. Five seniors on this year’s team have received offers to play college hockey next season, with captain Sarah Takahashi (Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn.), Olivia Wilburn (Cortland State University, Cortland, N.Y.) and Chickles (Buffalo State University, Buffalo, N.Y.) having decided on their schools for next year, while Ally Stout and Burke are currently deciding among several different options.
“This is such a big thing for us, having these players be able to continue playing at the next level,” said Long. “Knowing that we are producing these players that are going to college just does so much for all the younger players within the organization. Seeing the opportunity that they have moving forward is a big deal to us.
“We want to keep players in Northern California within our program where they can get the opportunities to move on to the next level, and this is an example of how that’s happening.”
— John B. Spigott
Lady Ducks’ 14U and 16U AAA teams earn berths to Nationals
Two Anaheim Lady Ducks Tier I teams – 14U and 16U – qualified for next month’s USA Hockey Youth Nationals in Michigan after sweeping opponents at the Pacific Districts, which the club hosted March 2-5.
The 14U team defeated the San Jose Jr. Sharks twice by scores of 3-0, while the 16U team defeated the Seattle Lady Admirals 6-0 and 4-0.
“We played the Sharks over Thanksgiving weekend and tied 1-1 – that shows the progress the girls have made,” 14U coach Laura Veharanta said. “We got contributions from all three lines, everyone was understanding their roles within our system.
“Everything is starting to click for them now, and a lot of girls are putting in time outside of practice, working on their skating and their shooting. A lot of people have bought in, and the same can be said for the 16s.”
For 16U coach Jennifer Friedman, a longtime teammate of Veharanta’s on the Cal Selects and later at Providence College, she said the 16s’ strength has been their adaptability.
“Coaching styles vary no matter what level you’re at,” said Friedman, like Veharanta, in her first season coaching with the Lady Ducks. “They did a good job adjusting to our style. We have a simple but effective style. We’re not looking for the pretty goal, but the scrappy ones, and keeping the pressure on the other team.
“For a lot of them, the overall way they’re seeing the game has improved greatly.”
For the 14U team, Emmerson Hayes had three goals and Elle Rutherford had two in the weekend sweep and Emily Evans and Brooke Marella each had a shutout in net.
Courtney Reyes had four goals on the weekend for the 16U squad and Logan Arseneau, Marissa Gebauer and Lily Yovetich each had a multi-point game.
“For a couple of years, there hasn’t been an opponent at Districts,” Lady Ducks director of coaches Kathy McGarrigle said. “That’s not the best way to prepare for Nationals. It’s nice to be able to compete.”
— Chris Bayee
Jr. Ducks, Lady Ducks clean up at Pacific Districts
The Anaheim Jr. Ducks and Lady Ducks represented their programs well at the Pacific District championships the last two weekends, as two teams from each program advanced to USA Hockey Youth Nationals.
18U Tier 1
The Jr. Ducks opened the tournament March 9 with a 6-3 defeat to the L.A. Jr. Kings. They bounced back with a convincing 6-0 victory over the San Jose Jr. Sharks the next day and on March 11, topped the host Alaska Oilers 6-1 to advance to the championship game. In the title tilt, they beat the Jr. Kings 3-1.
“We are extremely proud of the 18s group coming together as a team and making it to Nationals,” said head coach August Aiken. “They played a team game and sacrificed for the betterment of the team. A huge contribution came from the leadership group of the ‘98s, keeping the team focused on the task.
16U Tier I
The Jr. Ducks also won the 16U division, opening with a 3-0 victory over the Everett Silvertips on March 9 and the next day, easing to a 7-0 victory over the Alaska Blue Devils. On March 11, they topped the Jr. Kings 3-1 and skated into the championship game later that day with a 2-0 win over the Alaska Oilers. In the championship game, the Jr. Ducks toppled the Silvertips 3-2.
“We are very proud of how hard our team worked to accomplish their goal of making it to nationals,” said Craig Johnson, the team’s co-head coach along with Alex Kim. “They came together as a team and played with urgency and passion. As a team, we look forward to getting back to work to prepare for nationals.”
The Jr. Ducks 18U and 16U teams will move on to the national tournament April 6-10 in Pittsburgh.
15U Tier I
The Jr. Kings advanced to the title game in this division, but fell one win short. They opened with a 4-0 win over the San Diego Jr. Gulls on March 9 and topped the Jr. Ducks 2-0 on March 10. They fell to the Alaska Oilers 6-1 on March 11, and dropped the championship game by the same score to the same opponent.
14U Tier I
The Jr. Kings also came up one victory shy in the Bantam division. They fell to the host Alaska Oilers 5-1 in their opener March 9. They bounced back with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Jr. Ducks the next day and on March 11 advanced to the title game with a 3-1 triumph over the Jr. Gulls. In the March 12 championship, the Jr. Kings suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Oilers.
The Lady Ducks captured the district title, beating the Seattle Lady Admirals 4-0 and 6-0. Courtney Reyes scored twice in the first win, and added two more in the championship game, while Logan Arseneau, Ivy Boric, Isabella Bowman and Marissa Gebauer also scored. Savannah Gutierrez made six saves in the opener and Madelyn Morgan had four in the second game.
“We are very proud of this group’s work ethic and attention to detail, not allowing a single goal in the championship weekend,” said Kathy McGarrigle, the Lady Ducks’ hockey director. “Their tenacity and focus the last month of the season really helped them win the Pacific and be ready for a very competitive national championship next month.”
The Lady Ducks emerged victorious with wins over the San Jose Jr. Sharks twice, 3-0 and 4-0. In the first game, Emmerson Hayes scored twice, Elle Rutherford added a tally and Brooke Marella made 17 saves. In the title game, Emily Evans saved 15 shots and the Lady Ducks’ scoring came from Rutherford, Hayes and Seo Hyung Kwak.
“This team has grown tremendously this season in skill, team dynamics and compete level every game,” McGarrigle said. “By not allowing a single goal this championship weekend, these girls sent a powerful message that they are ready to take on USA Hockey’s top-ranked teams.”
The L.A. Traffic took home the women’s division championship despite losing their first two games. On Feb. 24, they fell to the Lady Ducks 3-2, and later that day, dropped a 4-2 decision to the Shockers. They responded with a 6-1 win over the Lady Ducks on Feb. 25 and beat the Shockers by the same score later in the day. In the championship game, they edged the Shockers 3-2.
The women’s A, B and C national championships will be held April 6-9 in Rochester and Macomb, Mich., and the girls Tier I nationals will be at the same rinks April 6-10.
— Greg Ball