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SAN JOSE, CA-The Vermont Shamrocks defeated Potsdam, NY to become the USA Hockey Tier II U-16 Girls Champions on Sunday evening.
"After last night, there were two ways we could have responded," said coach Pat Burke. "Our kids were disciplined, mature and we made big plays when we needed to."
He continued, "I think the best part about this is that we are a community-based organization. We want our players to skate for their high schools and their local organizations.
"Our model is unique. The other teams are basically super-teams, with kids being plucked from their home towns.
"It is extremely gratifying that we have achieved this success with our system."
The team went 6-0, "Mission W6," in the tournament, and now can proudly call themselves the best in America.
"It is a fantastic feeling," said North Country's Corrina Cota. "Playing with these girls... we are family, and to travel across the country and win a national title... it's just amazing."
Said her teammate Taylor Morley, whom I spoke to a little bit after Pat and Corrina, "It is finally setting in right now. We always play to get that their higher step, but now we've reached it, the highest step.
"I looked over at Hayley Martini, and we kind of were thinking about that next game, but this was it, we did it."
Chelsea Ellis got the scoring started in the first period off of a feed from her sister Aliza just 20 seconds into the game.
Said Cota, "When she scored, we could feel it. When we get the first goal, you know we ready to go. One the first one goes in, the rest keep coming."
Vermont would have to wait for the next ones, but in the mean time, their opponents were looking to get going themselves.
Potsdam tied things up at 1-1 with 12:47 left in the second, but, if you know the 'Rocks tenacity, you knew it would not stay tied for long.
Five minutes later, Molly Dunphy put Vermont up 2-1, converting Molly Burke's pass into hockey gold.
"When we look for players, we want players who are competitors," said Burke. "Molly Dunphy is fiercely competitive, and that is one of the reasons we brought her into the organization. Playing like she does, that is the foundation of our team."
With Victoria Gibson now in the net after Courtney Peyko had played her final half of hockey of the tourney, Rachel Morse lit the lamp to make it 3-1.
Burke and Jade Remillard picked up assists on the goal.
Chelsea and Aliza rekindled their sisterly magic effort late in the third, capping off the scoring at 4-1.
It was all over but the celebration.
The team received their banner, posed for the team picture and celebrated.
But, with the hectic travel schedule the families had to endure, the party broke up quickly.
As I was talking to coach Burke, who was at the airport about ready to board his flight, I asked him "what now?".
And he replied, "The thing I would like to do is get these girls on the ice with a bunch of four and five year-olds, because this team, these girls are role models.
"They are not only great kids on the ice, but off the ice as well, and they are the perfect role examples for young girls playing the game today."
I couldn't have said it better.
Congratulations to the Shamrocks on their incredible accomplishment.
It will not soon be forgotten.