MARLBOROUGH, MASS. - A national championship hat trick.
On April 9, 2018, the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Girls Prep hockey team captured their third straight national championship at the 2018 USA Hockey National Tournament as they defeated Belle Tire 5-1 in the final game.
Heading into the tournament last Thursday, the Sabres knew what they needed to do to have the chance to play in the championship game.
“We had a very strong team identity of puck pursuit and possession. We wanted to use that to our advantage. No other team is together in all aspects of life as we are, and that also is our advantage - playing the game that you love with your friends,” said Girls Prep head coach and SSM’s Director of Hockey Gordie Stafford.
And use it to their advantage they did. In their first game of pool play against Team Colorado, SSM came out strong, winning 6-2. They combined for 11 more goals in pool play, with their opponents only scoring three.
Quarter-finals and semifinals were checked off the to-do list on Saturday and Sunday, leaving the Sabres to face Belle Tire in the final game on Monday - a team which they had faced and beaten in the regular season.
“We knew going into the final game that Belle Tire was capable of beating us, meaning we couldn’t take them lightly. We had to go into the championship focused and prepared for a physical game since that’s generally their style of play,” said defenseman Gracie Ostertag ‘18.
SSM got on the board first in the middle of the first period when Sydney Breza ‘19 scored off an assist from Hannah Bilka ‘19. Minutes into the second period, Maggie Connors ‘19 added to the lead with assistance from Makenna Webster ‘20 to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead heading into the third.
Belle Tire found success on the power play with a little over seven minutes in the game, but Sabre goals both before and almost immediately after gave SSM what they needed to hold the lead until the final buzzer.
“I believe our success came from our team being such a close-knit group. We trusted each other with our individual roles that each player had on the team. We were able to hold each other accountable,” stated Ostertag.
“As a senior being able to win my final year at SSM was an ecstatic feeling, and will continue to be. Being able to add a banner to John R. Sumner Arena and having a national championship picture added to the New Rink lobby feels so special. As a senior my time is soon coming to an end but I will never forget the team dog pile on the ice where a bunch of best friends and sisters joined together after earning a national title in the SSM jersey for the third year in a row. This moment will be remembered for our lifetimes as a highlight of our hockey careers,” said goaltender Abbey Levy ’18.
(Photo credit: Laura Ray)