West Chester, PA -- Thanksgiving weekend has always meant family, food, and football but the U19 women have redefined the weekend by adding a Hockey Tournament Championship to the mix. The journey started Friday with a match up against the PHC Belles. The girls started out slow as it took some time to skate the fog of a Thanksgiving overindulgence out of their legs but eventually a pass from Katrina Conway set up Eve Hill for the first goal of the day. A few minutes later Lexi Poulin got the puck to Kaila Booth for the second goal of the game. Inspired play by Poulin continued when she got the puck to Bonnie Mundy for a goal to end the first period with a 3 goal lead. The second period showed our girls still had some kinks to work through when they let the Belles get a shot past Sydney Babin late in the second. Poulin’s hot streak was not over and she led the team getting back on the scoreboard with her first goal of the tournament when she put an unassisted goal to end the second with the 4-1 lead. The girls keep the momentum going early in the 3rd when Eve Hill and Avari Hahn assisted Poulin for yet another goal in the game. The final score was 5-1 over the PHC Belles and then it was time to face the Lady Patriots.
Lexi Poulin started off the scoring against the Lady Patriots with an unassisted goal early in the 1st period. The Patriots held their own afterwards and it took another 23 minutes of hockey for Poulin to get the Little Flyers on the scoresheet again with an assist to Jenna Calchi late in the second period. Both Calchi and Poulin switched roles early in the 3rd period when Calchi assisted Poulin for the 3rd goal of the game. Both teams kept playing hard and late in the 3rd Samantha Roberts got Guin Donovan the puck and she scored the final goal of the game and a 4-0 win.
Every tournament seems to have a dark horse team and this one was not different. Our girls did their best to prepare for the final game of Round Robin play against the Islanders. Not a lot was known about them other than they lost a close game to one of the better teams in the tournament. As the first period was drawing to an end, we all understood why the game was close. The Islanders had a solid defensive scheme and a goalie on a hot streak. Our girls played 90% of the first period in the Islanders end and with only 40 seconds remaining, Avari Hahn got the puck to Jenna Calchi who got the puck to none other than Lexi Poulin to score the first goal. Coaches Ken, Katie, and Laura kept our girls loose on the bench and everyone worked hard for another goal. The insurance goal came in the 2nd period in what could have made a highlight real when Morgan Daly and Charlotte Labre made two quick passes to Kaila Booth who found the back of the net from just outside the crease with a one timer. Our girls kept the offensive pressure on but with less than two minutes left in the 3rd a shot from Islanders player, Megan Stake, took a weird ricochet into the back of Sydney Babin’s net. This really turned up the heat on the Little Flyers as the Islander’s put an extra attacker on the ice for the closing seconds of the game. However, the final buzzer sounded to end the game (2-1) and the girls finished in the top seed for the semifinal’s that evening against the Lady Patriots.
In the semi-final round, it was important for our girls keep focus on the Lady Patriots and play them hard. Even though our girls had just beaten them on the opening day of the Tournament, the Patriots showed significant spirit and improvement since the earlier matches in the season. Coach Deming was up to the challenge and our girls defeated the Lady Patriots 5-0. Points were scored by Evelyn Pryadkin 2G1A, Samantha Roberts 1G, Michelle Radov 1G, Kaila Booth 1G, Maggie Danchak 1A, Eve Hill 1A, Bonnie Mundy 2A, and Katrina Conway 1A. Now it was onto the Finals against cross town rival JR Flyers.
The finals of any tournament are especially difficult because fatigue helps even the slightest of injuries play a factor in the players performance. This Final was no different. From the first puck drop to the final OT buzzer the game momentum swung back and forth. The JR Flyers got on the score board first when they took advantage of a mental lapse in our defensive zone with only 10 seconds left in the 1st period. Our girls regained focus and lifted spirits in the middle of the 2nd period when veteran players Morgan Daly and Kaila Booth got the puck to the hot hand of Lexi Poulin for the tying goal. The two teams continued to trade chances back and forth but neither team could find the net before the 2nd period buzzer sounded 1-1. The start of the third looked like a soul crusher when the JR Flyers again took advantage of a defensive zone mental lapse and hammered in their second goal only 45 seconds into the start of 3rd period play. Coaches Deming and Kate pulled the girls together and they pressed hard for their chance to tie the game when Michelle Radov and Eve Hill brought hope back when they combined to get the puck the Avari Hahn forth tying goal (2-2). Both teams fought to score until the buzzer sounded ending regulation time. Nothing says ‘nail biter’ like overtime! Parents from both sides were biting their nails to the quicks.
OT started the beginning of 4vs4 play to determine the winner of the tournament. After a brief intermission where the players rested, and the coaches strategized how to organize lines for the perfect balance of offensive pressure and defensive skill, the overtime puck dropped. Little Flyers started Poulin, Booth, Mundy, and Babin. The puck dropped and Poulin won the draw back. With JR Flyers fighting Poulin for every inch, she got the puck to the near side center ice boards for Booth. Booth skated the puck into the JR Flyers defensive zone with a lane to the net when she got mugged from behind to prevent and early end to Overtime. No whistle could be heard but as the ref skated by me, I heard him say, “not in overtime”, indicating both teams were going to play through some stuff if they wanted to win. Mundy was trailing the play and turned on her jets to get the loose puck from the crime scene that had Booth flat on her back at the top of the near side circle. Mundy sent the puck to Poulin deep in the far corner and who then circled through the slot to the Blue line. Poulin skated the puck out of the corner on an arc to the top of the slot while Booth quit laying down on the job and took up position on left side of crease. So, with Mundy at blue line ready for a drop pass and Booth setting a screen in the crease, Poulin finds a shooting lane between two JR Flyer players and lets loose with a wrist shot from high in slot. JR Flyer’s goalie, Katie O’Brien, was lined up perfectly for the save until Booth tipped the puck over her shoulder and into the net to end overtime, win the game, and win the 2021 Philadelphia Rush Tournament. (I’d like to thank Lexi Poulin for significant contributions to this article. She led the 19U division of the Tournament in points with a total of 6 goals and 4 assists. By way of comparison second leading point scorer had 6 points in total. Honorable mention goes to Kaila Booth who placed third in tournament with 5 points from 4 goals and 1 assist.)