Orange was everywhere one looked at the recently completed USA Hockey Youth Nationals, or so it seemed.
With five girls teams as well as a Women’s C team, the Lady Ducks were omnipresent at Marlborough, Mass. The Jr. Ducks contributed four more teams to Nationals, and one - the Midget 16U AAA team - reached the semifinals to earn a bronze medal.
Add it up and it capped a remarkable season for the club.
“When you look at Tier I and Tier II, we were the ones with a team in every bracket,” Lady Ducks Program Director and Coach Kathy McGarrigle said. “It was very unique even for Nationals.
“Michigan and Chicago put high-quality teams out there, but we had five teams. You can’t ask for anything else. It was an incredible accomplishment.”
Not only were the six girls / women’s teams the most by any one club at Nationals, it marked a club record for the Lady Ducks. Add on the Jr. Ducks teams, and that’s another record.
“When you start the season with your team, getting to Nationals is a goal,” Jr. Ducks Director of Coaches Craig Johnson said. “There are good teams in California and the Pacific District, so it is a privilege to represent them. We’re fortunate we got so many teams in this season.
“We couldn’t be prouder as an organization.”
Another source of pride for the club was USA Hockey officials commending the Lady Ducks on their development of female coaches for the girls game.
“USA Hockey wants more diversity, and out of the 16 female coaches at the Tier I and Tier II Nationals, the Lady Ducks had five of them,” McGarrigle said. “It was a big moment for them to acknowledge us getting female coaches to mentor players, whether ex-Lady Ducks or ex-Division I players.
“USA Hockey officials told us it was noticeable. These former players come back, and the ones who take to mentoring are excited about it and learning all the nuances of coaching. The results spoke for themselves.”
JR DUCKS' 166 AAA TEAM PICKS UP A BRONZE MEDAL
The 16U AAA team coached by Johnson and Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel Alex Kim narrowly missed a chance at playing for a championship at Pittsburgh.
In a tight semifinal, the Jr. Ducks twice rallied to tie the score but ultimately lost, 3-2, when Team Wisconsin scored with a little over seven minutes to play. It was the first time a Jr. Ducks team ever has reached the semifinals.
“It was a great game,” Johnson said. “I was very proud of the way our kids played. They followed what we wanted them to do. Every kid competed hard.
“They did a great job representing California and the Jr. Ducks program.”
Down 1-0, the Jr. Ducks tied it 2:12 into the second period on Jackson Niedermayer’s power-play goal. After Team Wisconsin retook the lead with five minutes remaining in the period, Ryan Green tied it again with 31 seconds to play on an even-strength strike. But Cole Danielson, who had set up Wisconsin’s first two goals, tallied midway through the third to clinch it.
“We played well enough to win,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately it just didn’t work out. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of kids, and we as coaches couldn’t ask for better kids to coach.”
The Jr. Ducks went 2-0-1 in pool play, knocking off the Chicago Young Americans (6-1) and the Esmark Stars (5-2) before tying the Boston Jr. Eagles (2-2). The Jr. Ducks then defeated Detroit Little Caesars, 5-2, on a pair of goals by Niedermayer and single strikes from Ethan Wolthers, Joseph Harguindeguy and Josh Groll.
Groll and Niedermayer led the team with seven points, and five and four goals, respectively. Harguindeguy and Ryan Johnson added six points each.
Also at Pittsburgh, the 18U AAA team lost two close games to two of the top teams in the field, falling in overtime to semfinalist Eastern Mass Senators and a 2-0 decision to Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Logan Harris led the Jr. Ducks with three points.
In boys Tier II, the Jr. Ducks’ 16U team battled a Division 3 semifinalist, the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, tough at Wayne, N.J. Christopher Emery had three points, including two goals, to lead the Jr. Ducks at the tournament.
At Green Bay, Wis., the 18U AA team went 1-2, twice losing by one goal, including in overtime to semifinalist Sylvania North Stars in Division 3. Brandon Washiashi led the Jr. Duck with three goals and four points, and Gavin O’Bryan added three points.
LADY DUCKS PUT THE BEST TO THE TEST
The Lady Ducks’ 19U AAA team came close to reaching the semifinals and the 14U AAA squad missed the playoffs by the narrowest of margins.
The 19Us went 2-1 in pool play, losing only to eventual champion Shattuck-St. Mary’s before being edged by finalist Detroit Belle Tire, 3-2, in a quarterfinal. Ivy Boric scored both goals off assists from Samantha Smigliani and Savannah Gutierrez stopped 35 shots in the quarterfinal.
“The 19s had a goal disallowed and lost on penalties. They had a great shot at moving on,” McGarrigle said.
For the tournament, Smigliani and Brooke Bryant had seven points apiece for the LDs, while Boric had five goals among her six points.
The 14Us went 2-1 in pool play with their only loss coming to finalist Assabet Valley Red Major. However, going to a shootout to beat Chicago Mission cost them a quarterfinal spot. Mia Catalano led the way with two points.
“The 14s beat a highly ranked Mission team and didn’t get through on a tie-breaker,” McGarrigle said.
“Both teams had very good seasons and we’re proud of how they played and how they carried themselves.”
The 16U AAA also competed at Nationals, losing a close game to open pool play. Logan Arseneau and Marissa Gebauer had goals for the LDs.
The close calls carried over to Tier II for the Lady Ducks as well.
The 16s opened with a victory over the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes before dropping two close games in pool play. Alexandria Young and Karena Barrett each had two points for the LDs.
“The 16 AAs lost two heart breakers, to a semifinalist and a finalist,” McGarrigle said. “They’re disappointed but they went toe-to-toe with two very good teams.
“There was not a player on our 14 AAs who had ever been to Nationals. A lot of them will move on to 14 AAA or 16 AA next season, and the experience they gained will help them. It’s motivating and the reality gauge will be good for the group.”