Members of the Vermont Shamrocks are guaranteed to remember their recent trip to Buffalo for the rest of their lives.
The Tier II girls hockey team won the 16-and-under national championship Monday, skating to a 5-0 victory over the Wisconsin-based Baldwin River Falls Black Cats. The Shamrocks relied on balanced scoring and outstanding goaltending from New Hampshire product Shannon Moran (27 saves). The team claimed its third title in program history after winning a 16-and-under title in 2013 and a 19-and-under crown in 2016.
“Collectively, the players have 105 years combined experience with the Shamrocks on spring and summer showcase teams,” coach Dave French said. “The players take a great deal of pride in being a part of this team. ... Unlike many teams we compete against, we only take local players because it is our mission to grow and support the game in Vermont. Competing with and beating these other programs is very satisfying for all the players, showing that as a team they can beat anybody in the country.”
The Shamrocks feature many of the top players from Vermont and border towns in New York and New Hampshire. The players compete for their local high school or prep schools during the regular season before joining the Shamrocks at the end of their season. Molly French is the squad’s longest-tenured player and said winning the national championship is a dream come true.
“For so many years we lost most of our games,” she said. “But we would hear about the older girls going to nationals and our coaches would say, ‘One day that will be you.’ And it’s so amazing to finally be here. It’s just such an amazing experience competing against the 15 best teams in the country — and coming out on the top.”
The two Central Vermont players on the team both scored key goals during the five-day tourney. Stowe High School standout Abby Chauvin (two goals) tallied the first goal in the title game against Baldwin River Falls. Chauvin also scored against Aspen, cutting the Leafs’ lead to one goal.
Northfield’s Corinne Bolding (one goal, two assists) tallied a huge goal by cashing in on the vision and tenacious fore-checking of teammate Lucie Turcotte to bury a short-handed goal in the semifinal game, giving the Shamrocks a two-goal lead. South Burlington’s Lilly Truchon led the Shamrocks in scoring with two goals and six assists.
Vermont went 2-1 during the pool-play round, beating the Steele City Selects and Wisconsin Selects while losing to the Aspen Leafs. The Shamrocks stepped up their game in the knockout round and advanced to the final by winning two games Sunday.
The Shamrocks knocked off the Bay State Breakers in the quarterfinal with some late heroics. Lydia Bullock scored the first goal of the game with 5:36 to go in the third period. The Shamrocks added two more empty-net goals for a 3-0 victory. They followed that up with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers in the semifinals.
Brent Truchon, Dan Bullock and Matt Brush are assistant coaches for the Shamrocks. Rounding out the roster are Sophie Forcier, Taylor Heywood, Kelly Citera, Nicole Wright, Madison Chagnon, Abby Robbins, Grace Wiggett, Lane Sky, Carlisle Brush and Madison Tetreau.
“The national championship is the culmination of many years of work for these players,” coach French said. “Their first year with the Shamrocks was the last year we won the 16-and-under championship. That was something I remember coach Truchon talking to many of these players about at their tournament in Jay Peak that spring. And how one day, years later, they may be playing together for a national title.”
The Shamrocks earned their seventh straight trip to nationals by going 4-1 in the New England Regional tournament. They scored with three seconds left in the title game to defeat the Connecticut Northern Lights, 2-1.
“The hardest district to advance out of and into nationals is New England,” coach French said. “All our players play high school from Thanksgiving to early March, and the New England tournament is right on the heels of high school playoffs. It is a great testament to the players to be able to come together as a team in such a short time.
“It’s that word ‘team’ that I think of first when I think of this group of players. The reason we won first New Englands, and then the national title, symbolized the great team effort on and off the ice. In Buffalo, key wins — exemplified by the victory over No. 2 Wisconsin in pool play — were achieved by a relentless attack contributed by everybody. Coach Brush told the team, ‘Let it loose.’ And they did.”
The 19-and-under Shamrocks were also in the national tourney this weekend. They were placed in a tough division with mighty Canton/St. Lawrence and the East Coast Selects. The older Shamrocks side finished with a 1-1-1 record after suffering an overtime loss.
That was not good enough to advance to the quarterfinals, ending their run in Buffalo. Area players on the squad made significant contributions during their three-game appearance. Montpelier’s Bella Parento scored three goals and added one assist. Northfield native Cat Miles also scored, while Stowe’s Leo Clark posted a 1-1 record in goal with a 2.33 goals-against average
Fayston’s Bella Vasseur was on the opposite side of the country this past week during Tier I 14-and-under nationals. She also captured the top prize while competing for the Pittsburgh Pens Elite. Her team faced a 3-0 deficit against Little Ceasers 2:35 into the final period, but Vasseur scored late in regulation to help set the stage for a 4-3 overtime victory.