Alaskans win Tier II hockey title

The Alaska All Stars U-14 girls finished their march to the Tier II title at the USA Hockey National Championships in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, when their crowning achievement featured strong performances by their leading sniper and stalwart goaltender.

Kirsten Watts scored both goals and Vandalyn Hudson stopped 13 shots to secure her second tournament shutout in the All Stars' 2-0 championship win over the Connecticut Ice Cats.

The All Stars, who went 6-0-0 in the tournament and outscored their opponents, 31-5, beat the Ice Cats for the second time in four days. Alaska, which played the entire tournament with just 10 skaters -- so, basically, two forward lines and two pairs of defensemen -- topped Connecticut 3-2 on Thursday.

Alaska became the sixth team to win a USA Hockey youth national championship -- three Alaska teams have been crowned in Tier I, the highest level of American youth hockey, and three in Tier II -- and the second straight Alaska team to win the girls U-14 Tier II championship. The Alaska Icebreakers won the title last year.

Watts' goal less than three minutes into the game staked the All Stars to a 1-0 lead. She furnished a 2-0 cushion with her third-period goal.

Watts scored at least one goal in all six tournament games and multiple goals in three of those games, including twice in Alaska's three playoff games. Watts racked 11 tournament goals - more than twice as many as all of Alaska's opponents managed against Hudson.

Hudson surrendered just five goals on the 87 shots she faced in six games for a sterling .943 save percentage. Sunday, she and her teammates killed all three Ice Cats power plays, including one in the third period, when Alaska limited Connecticut to just three shots on goal in the 16-minute period.

The end wasn't as joyful for the Alaska All Stars' U-14 boys team in the Tier II-2A division championship game in Charlotte, N.C., where the Alaskans fell 7-0 to the Affton (Mo.) Americans.

Affton scored three goals inside the first 11 minutes and outshot the Alaskans 39-12. All Stars goalie Ronan Klancher stopped 32 shots.

According to USA Hockey, the All Stars' second-place finish is at least the seventh time a team from Alaska has finished runner-up at nationals.

Alaska qualified seven teams for nationals this year - one girls team and one boys team in Tier I, and four boys teams and one girls team in Tier II.

Also in San Jose on Sunday, Taylor Schwalbe of Anchorage and the Shattuck-St. Mary's (Minn.) girls won the U-16 Tier I national championship with a third-period rally that delivered a 4-3 victory over the Assabet Valley Red (Mass.). Shattuck's Brette Pettet scored game-tying and game-winning goals 2:29 apart inside the last seven minutes to give the Sabres their only lead of the game.

Late Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Shattuck-St. Mary's U-18 boys Tier I team that includes defenseman Truman Reed of Anchorage was eliminated by the Neponset Valley River Rats (Mass.) 5-1 in the semifinals. Neponset Valley won the championship Sunday with a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis AAA Blues.

Anchorage Daily News