Lady Coyotes’ 19U AA team wins title
One of the AZ Lady Coyotes mantras is that if you love the game and play hard, the wins will eventually come.
With the former locked down, the latter is starting to take place.
The Lady Coyotes’ 19U AA club earned the organization’s first tournament championship at this year’s MLK Girls and Women’s Invitational, which was contested last month and hosted by the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
The Coyotes swept through the Girls Silver brace, winning all five of their contests to take home the program’s first-ever championship banner. That’s a marked improvement for a team that went winless in its first showcase of the season just two months earlier at the Fire and Ice Tournament in Rochester, N.Y.
“They surprise us at each tournament,” said Lady Coyotes assistant coach Matt Shott. “Before they were making bad mistakes, but they’re learning from them now.”
The defensive-minded Coyotes found their elusive scoring touch in San Jose, outscoring opponents from California 13-2 over the course of the weekend.
Megan Mroczek led all scorers in the division with three for six points. Kaitlyn Barto (three goals, two assists) was a close second for the division’s scoring title.
The Coyotes finished with seven of the top-10 scorers (Krystina Meadows, four points; Lauren Power, four; Hanna DiBiasi, three; Madison Dalgren, three; and Kalie Chadwick, two) in their bracket. All told, 11 different Lady Coyotes notched a point during the tournament.
DiBiasi netted what proved to be the winning goal in the 2-0 title-game victory over the California Wave, burying the puck at the 11:58 mark of the third period.
“She really proved herself,” Shott said of DiBiasi, a forward who moved up from defense about a month ago.
The Lady Coyotes scored more goals in San Jose than it had tallied in any prior tournament this year. They accomplished that by controlling the puck and establishing an offensive-zone presence, said head coach Natalie Rossi.
Rossi’s staff has been preaching calmness on the ice and encouraging players to move with the puck and create plays, rather than shooting or passing the first chance they get.
The result is a renewed forecheck that’s creating opportunities to score. That might be the missing key for the team, which excels at keeping opponents out of its zone. The Lady Coyotes, led on defense by players like Audrey Larson and Emily Dennee, held their competition to an average of less than 15 shots per game.
As the Lady Coyotes discovered their forechecking, opponents found out that their two goalies are about as porous as a brick wall.
Goaltender Sarah Jacobelli stopped all 40 shots she faced over the weekend – including 13 against the Wave in the title game – for three shutouts. Mimi Krajewski earned two wins, including her own shutout.
The momentum comes at a time when the AZ Lady Coyotes are making their final push toward the Rocky Mountain District tournament, which begins in early March, and the USA Hockey National Championships in April.
It’s the perfect time for the girls to be hitting their stride.
“They’re eight-million miles from where they started,” Rossi said. “Every one of them has improved.
“Now the girls have a taste of what it feels like to win. You could see their confidence level rising with each tourney win.”
There are plenty of games and lots of hockey left in the season, but for now, you can’t fault the Lady Coyotes’ coaches from beaming a bit at their first banner.
“I need a new word for proud,” Rossi said.
– Christopher C. Wuensch