Shootout was the word of the day as pool play ended at the National Championships yesterday. The Colonials teams participating battled valiantly but no team advanced to the playoff round. The 14U Bantam boys were only a puck bounce away from advancing as they lost in a shootout or overtime in every tournament contest. The 16U girls were last day victims of the shootout in their game with BelleTire while the 19U emerged victorious 3-2 in a shootout with Niagara. Great work by our National bound teams and all our Colonials players in the 2017-18 season!
14U Bantam Boys: Little Caesars 2, New Jersey Colonials 1 (SO) – After the teams traded goals in the final 8:17 of play, Luke Hughes netted the shootout winner as Little Caesars clinched the top seed in the Liberty group heading into the semifinals. Mikita Tarasevich scored in regulation for Little Caesars and Zach Sedlacek tallied for New Jersey. Zakari Brice made 18 saves for Little Caesars to earn the win. Nick Wallace finished with 25 stopped shots in goal for the Colonials.
19U Girls: New Jersey Colonials 3, Niagara Jr Purple Eagles 2 (SO) – A third period power play goal by Haley Uliasz set the stage for a thrilling shootout win for the New Jersey Colonials over Niagara. staterAnnika Asplundh posted 27 saves and stopped 4 of 5 shootout attempts backstop the win. Niagara scored less then a minute into the second period but the Colonials responded a few minutes later when Chloe Ashton found the back of the net. Abbigail Charvet notched a power play goal later in the second, once again spotting Niagara a one goal lead, 2-1. That set the stage for Uliasz and the Colonials to even the score and walk away with the shootout win to end their season on a high note.
16U Girls: BelleTire 4, New Jersey Colonials 3 (SO) – Unfortunately for the New Jersey Colonials and Michigan’s Belle Tire, the Tier I 16U Liberty Pool was upset-free this year. The fourth-seeded East Coast Wizards and fifth-seeded Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres held serve, which left the Colonials and Belle Tire still seeking a victory on the final day of pool play. They met Saturday in a lunchtime matinee that couldn’t have been more evenly matched.
New Jersey, the No. 13 seed, and Belle Tire, the No. 12 seed, entered play with identical records and near-identical goal differentials. After one period head-to-head, they were tied 1-1. After two periods, they were tied 2-2. After regulation, they were tied 3-3. After overtime, they were still tied. After a five-player shootout, the margin of difference was a single goal – scored off the post by Belle Tire’s Makenna Wiljanen – and a flawless five saves from goaltender Samantha Miller to give the Detroiters a 4-3 victory.
“In the shootout, I like to just slow it down in terms of thinking about it,” said Miller. “It’s just one shot, one shooter at a time. You can make up a strategy, but there’s really no strategy at all. I just focus on the puck. You can’t anticipate, because if you over-anticipate, it goes in every time.”
Miller’s had a fair amount of practice in the Nationals’ spotlight. This was her fourth trip overall and her second at Tier I 16U. She also made it twice at 14U, advancing to the semifinals two years ago.
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere at Nationals,” said Miller. “It’s a lot more nerves, a lot more hype. There are so many teams and players that work so hard to get here. It’s a rush.”
And while they hoped for a better result in the final tournament standings, the Belle Tire girls will certainly savor winning their last game of 2017-18 and using it as a springboard for the future. As for Miller, she’ll soon shed her goalie gear and morph into a lacrosse midfielder for a few months before returning to the ice.
“I have to score goals sometime,” she said