The Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Ice Hawks Tier II Girls 14U team advanced to the next round of the USA Hockey National Championships in Lansing, Michigan, with a win Saturday.
KPHA topped the New Jersey Colonials 2-0. That left the Ice Hawks at 1-1-1 in the pool play portion of the tournament, putting them last of the three teams in Pool A. However, KPHA finished pool play with more points than two of the three teams in Pool B, moving the Ice Hawks to the bracketed portion of the tournament.
“As it stands now, 12 teams qualified for nationals and eight made it to the quarterfinals,” KPHA head coach Ted Barton said. “Pointwise, we were No. 7, so as of today we’re the No. 7 U14 Tier II team. Even if we stopped right here, what an accomplishment.”
Sunday, the Ice Hawks play the Troy (Michigan) Sting at 4:30 a.m. ADT in the quarterfinals. Troy is the only team to win all three of its games in regulation thus far in the tournament, and has a goal differential of plus-10.
“We will have our work cut out for us,” Barton said. “We watched them play, and there are no weak sisters on that team for sure. As of right now, we’re going over strategy to slow that team down.”
Barton said his team wasn’t favored the beat Palmer and win the Pacific District tournament, either.
“Tomorrow, the odds favor the other team,” Barton said. “They’re No. 1 and we’re No. 4. But we’re a team that’s been known to surprise people, as Palmer well knows.”
Saturday, Jayce Lakshas made seven saves for KPHA to shut out the Colonials.
While seven saves doesn’t sound like a lot, Barton said she had a big save early in the first period, when KPHA outshot New Jersey 6-4 before turning in 11-1 and 10-2 advantages in the second and third periods, respectively.
“You never know what is going to happen when you get behind in a game early,” Barton said. “She saved our bacon on that one, for sure.”
Barton was able to stay the course after the second period in the must-win game, and he was rewarded in the third period when Journey Miller scored unassisted and Leah Johnson scored on an assist from Anna Shelden.
Friday, KPHA dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Illinois Nationals.
Miller had the lone goal of the first period, assisted by Kylan Lakshas.
The Falcons evened the ledger with a Michelle Byker strike in the second, but Shelden scored unassisted as KPHA again put its nose out front in the second period.
However, Cecily Hetzel tallied in the third period to send the game to overtime. There, Byker’s second goal of the game won it. Mackenzi Powell made eight saves for the Ice Hawks, while Amanda Peter had 10 saves for the Falcons.