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Concord Capitals girls’ hockey is back in the national tournament

  • The Concord Orthopedics Concord Capitals girls 19U team is back in the national tournament for the second time in three years. The tournament begins Thursday and runs through Monday. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Thursday, April 05, 2018

The puck drops on the USA Hockey Tier II Girls 19U National Championships on Thursday and the Concord Capitals are back in the race for a title.

With many of the same girls from the 2016 squad that finished third in the nation at the 16U level, the Capitals are bringing an experienced group to the New England Sports Complex in Marlborough, Mass.

The Capitals, backed by Concord Orthopedics, earned their spot in the championship tournament by way of winning the New England regional in Auburn, Maine, last month.

Concord went 4-1 in the regional, capped by a 2-1 win over the Vermont Shamrocks in the final round, the same team that knocked Concord out of the regional last season. The Capitals also survived double overtime in the semifinals with a 1-0 win against the Seacoast Spartans.

Concord (14-6-4) enters the national tournament ranked eighth in the country.

First-year head coach Chuck Sisson was an assistant coach when the girls reached the 16U tournament in 2016. Thirteen of the 19 players on the current roster were part of the 2016 group, now back in the national tournament for a second time in three years.

Those back for another run are familiar with the level of competition they’ll face this week in Massachusetts. The rookies will adapt.

“There’s some newcomers that have not been here before,” Sisson said. “They’ll be a little nervous but you tell them to treat it like another game. This one just has a big title to it.”

The tournament begins with three games of pool play. Concord opens Thursday at 6:10 p.m. against the East Coast Wizards before facing the St. Lawrence Steel on Friday (4:10 p.m.) and the Arizona Lady Coyotes on Saturday (6:10 p.m.).

Games will be available to stream online at HockeyTV.com.

The Capitals aren’t sure what to expect in pool play. Of their three opponents, Concord is only familiar with the Wizards, a team the Capitals faced once this season in November, a 2-1 loss.

“They’re a tough team,” Sisson said. “We have no special plans other than to play them hard. I would expect a one- or two-goal game. We’re going to come out like it’s the championship game.”

Led by top point scorers Mikah Baptiste, Colleen Donoghue and Morgan Sisson, the Capitals like to play a hard-nosed style throwing pucks deep in the zone and muscling their way into possession.

Every player has scored this season, coach Sisson said, and he’s confident in the team’s depth heading into the tournament.

Injuries sidelined several players in the fall portion of the season. The league broke for January and February, allowing players to compete on their high school teams. They reconvened for the regional tournament in the middle of March and bring a nearly complete roster into the national tournament, minus one injured player.

Several players on this team split the season and play for their high school programs, as well. The challenge that comes with that is transitioning between coaches and different styles of play.

That burden is square on the shoulders of the players, and Sisson is impressed with their ability to pick up in March where they left off at the end of December.

“There’s different systems in high school from what we do,” Sisson said. “They have to adapt to whatever coach they’re playing for, and I hope they don’t forget the style that I taught them.”

For the veterans, this transition isn’t so hard anymore. More than half of the players on this team have been on the ice together going back to U12, and Sisson has been behind the bench in some capacity each year.

But a 10-week gap between the end of the regular season and the start of regionals requires an adjustment from even the most experienced players.

“It may take a half game or so,” Sisson said. “Luckily, we got a weak draw in the first round (of regionals) and got our legs under us. Then we took on the tougher teams. We played some good hockey.”

The Capitals hope to continue to play at that level this weekend. Pool play cuts the field from 16 teams to eight. Concord needs to finish in the top-two of their four-team division to advance to the quarterfinals Sunday morning. The semifinals are played Sunday afternoon and the championship is scheduled for Monday.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)