Lady Coyotes find positives in November competition
To say that November was a busy month for the Arizona Lady Coyotes would be an understatement.
The Lady Coyotes 16U team went to Detroit for the World Hockey Invitational (formerly the Nike Bauer Invite) Nov. 13-15 and coach Tom Johnson said the team played well.
“We performed better than I was expecting,” Johnson said. “Over the weekend, we progressively got better.”
Assistant coach Matt Shott stated that the tournament was an eye-opener for the team.
“As long as they are learning something, it’s an experience for them to know to step up the effort if they want to compete on that level,” said Shott.
The team led most of its games and controlled the play at times, but lost in a few close games.
“As the weekend went on, the girls felt more comfortable,” Johnson said. “We definitely saw some improvements over the weekend.”
The following weekend, the Lady Coyotes 19U team hosted the Colorado Select for a four-game series. The Lady Coyotes played the Select previously at a New Mexico tournament and tied 2-2. The girls went 2-1-1 against the Select in the latest series, winning the final two games.
“It was a pretty close competition,” Johnson said. “They were on the road and got tired and we were able to take advantage of that. We dominated the last games of the weekend.”
Thanksgiving weekend proved to be an eventful one for the Lady Coyotes as they hosted their 2nd Annual Cranberry Cup at the AZ Ice Arcadia. The 19U team played against the Utah Lady Grizzlies, Idaho Selects, New Mexico Mustangs and the eventual champion Surrey Falcons.
Team manager Diane Mroczek helped develop the Cranberry Cup.
“Our girls sacrifice their weekends for practice and travel, so it’s nice for people to come and see them play hockey locally,” Mroczek said. “We wanted to host a tournament in Arizona so that people here can see what we are doing with the teams.”
The Lady Coyotes plan to expand their tournament in the future, to attract more all-girl teams, eventually adding a 14U division for the younger girls to play other teams.
The 19U team played Surrey on Nov. 27, where it was a close game, but the Falcons eventually scored a couple late goals to escape with the win.
“They are a very good team and they don’t have any weak players,” Johnson said of the British Columbia-based Eagles. “I was very proud of our girls for the effort and their control of the plays.”
The Lady Coyotes also went against the Lady Grizzlies, ranked fifth in the country at the time, and led most of the game, only losing by one goal.
Johnson explained that he saw the games as not just about numbers, but how the team plays as a whole.
“We tell our team to have confidence with the puck and to not be afraid to make a mistake,” Johnson said. “You can make a mistake because there are five other girls on the ice to make up for it.”
Johnson noticed the 19U team improved with their puck support on the ice and now are focusing on goal production and shooting from the defensemen. Shott added that it was a learning experience for the girls to see strong all-girls teams.
During the Cranberry Cup, the 12U team hosted a three-game series against local teams. Head coach Natalie Rossi said that she told her team to “take pride in every stride” on the ice, and it worked.
“Most of our girls got their first goal of the season; some of their playing careers,” Rossi said. “We won all three games. Team play was really big, our passing improved a lot.”
The coaches are now focusing on their upcoming games as the 12U team will compete in the Coyotes Cup Dec. 27-30, while the 14U and 19U squads will compete in the MLK Tournament in San Jose, Calif., over Martin Luther King Day weekend in January.
— Katy Wolpoff