Concord Capitals finish runner-up at USA Hockey 19U Girls Tier II National Championship

  • The Concord Capitals pose with their silver medals on Monday at the USA Hockey 19U Girls Tier II National Championship in Amherst, N.Y. The Capitals went 2-1 to advance out of pool play, beat the Wisconsin Selects, 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals and knocked off the defending-champion East Coast Wizards, 2-0, in the semifinals before losing to the Boston Jr. Eagles, 6-1, in Monday’s final. COURTESY

Monitor staff
Published: 4/8/2019 3:58:51 PM

Last year, they didn’t make it out of pool play. This year, the Concord Capitals made it all the way to the finals of the USA Hockey 19U Girls Tier II National Championship.

The Capitals stumbled in their last game, a 6-1 loss to the Boston Jr. Eagles in Monday’s title game at the Northtown Center at Amherst, just outside of Buffalo, N.Y. But the team, which is made up of local players from multiple high schools, was still pleased with its silver medals.

“Coming out of the locker room everyone was talking about what a great run we had, and that we may not top that ever again, who knows,” Concord coach Chuck Sisson said. “So, everyone was happy with the overall outcome, because you don’t always make it to that stage.”

The core of this team has been together for more than seven years. They finished third in the 16U Tier II National Championships in 2016, and last year made it back to the national stage, but got knocked out in the early, pool-play stage of that 19U tournament.

After losing some key players and taking on six new faces this year, the Capitals weren’t sure what to expect from this season.

“We talked to the girls in the room after the game and we said, if you had told me that we would have been here, second team in the nation, at the beginning of the year, it would have been hard to believe,” Sisson said. “But they worked hard and worked their way up and that’s how they got where they were.”

Sisson said the biggest improvement the girls made was learning to play together as a team, an issue that most split-season programs have to face. They gelled together in plenty of time to qualify for the tournament, but once they arrived in Amherst they had to overcome another challenge.

The Capitals lost their first game of the tournament, 2-1, in a shootout to Monroe (N.Y.) County on Thursday. Olivia Branch, assisted by Sydney Fascetta, gave Concord a 1-0 lead in the first period. But Monroe tied things in the third and then scored on three of its four shootout chances, while the Capitals went 0-for-3.

“In the past, we haven’t come out of the gates fast in tournaments, and it was the same here. I don’t think we played our best game in that first one,” Sisson said. “But the girls knew we would be able to play better through the rest of the tournament, and then we started to turn it on.”

Concord bounced back on Friday with a 5-2 win over the Petoskey (MI) Piranhas. Both Darby Palisi and Molly Flanagan finished with a goal and two assists in that one, Kaitlin Bardellini had a goal and an assist and Abigail Flanagan scored the final goal. Molly Flanagan would go on to finish tied for the tournament lead in points (10) and goals (six).

“Molly was on fire,” Sisson said.

She finished with four goals and an assist in the next game, a 7-2 win over Team South Dakota on Saturday, although Sisson thinks one of those goals may have gone in off a Concord shin pad. Fascetta (who finished tied for second in tournament assists with six), Palisi and Branch each had a goal and an assist against South Dakota, Violet Sperry had two assists and Abby Houle finished with 26 saves.

The Capitals started the single-elimination portion of the event with a 2-1 overtime win in the quarterfinals against the Wisconsin Selects. Houle was solid in net once again, stopping 23 of the 24 shots she faced. Flanagan gave Concord a first-period lead when she scored a power play goal, assisted by Alessandra Cimis, but Wisconsin tied things in the third. Branch, assisted by Morgan Sisson and Fascetta, found the game winner just 2:33 into overtime.

That quarterfinal win came on Sunday afternoon, and Concord was back on the ice Sunday night for the semifinals against the East Coast Wizards, the defending national champs from Bedford, Mass. Since Houle had already played two games in less than 24 hours, the Capitals turned to their other goalie, Mary Jane Peters, and all she did was stop all 27 shots she faced to lead her team to a 2-0 win.

“We had good goaltending all year,” coach Sisson said. “Whichever one we put in, we did well.”

Ashlyn Brown scored in the first period against the Wizards on an assist from Fascetta, and Mikah Baptiste, assisted by Palisi, scored a short-handed goal late in the third to seal the win.

“The Wizards beat us in the semifinals when we were in the U16s, so that was a little payback,” Sisson said. “They were really happy they pulled that one off.”

Unfortunately for the Capitals, all the hockey caught up with their legs in Monday morning’s final.

“We played one game a day for a while and then all of a sudden you play three games in 24 hours, and I think that just takes a toll on the bodies,” Sisson said. “We just seemed a little slower than normal.”

Boston took a 2-0 lead in the championship game before Baptiste, assisted by Cimis, found the net at 11:17 of the second. The score stayed 2-1 through the rest of the first period, and the Capitals still had hope.

“We were feeling like we could play with them and we were making a few thing work,” Sisson said. “And this team never gives up, that’s one of their best traits.”

It stayed a one-goal game until midway through the second when Madi Morton scored to put the Jr. Eagles up, 3-1. They got another goal late in the second and then one early in the third to put any doubt to rest.

“It doesn’t always end up the way you want it to,” Sisson said. “But this team really came together this season and once they got on the same page, they really impressed.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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