When the games got bigger, so did the clutch performances by the Anchorage North Stars 16-U girls.
After losing their pool-play opener at the USA Hockey Tier II national championships in regulation and their second pool-play game in a shootout, the North Stars reeled off four consecutive victories, the last three of them in elimination games.
That run culminated with Monday's 3-1 championship win over the Vermont Shamrocks in Troy, Michigan, which made the North Stars the seventh team in Alaska youth hockey history to capture a national championship.
Monday's victory not only earned the North Stars of the Anchorage Hockey Association the right to hoist hardware, but it avenged a 1-0 loss to the Shamrocks last Thursday on the opening day of nationals.
Annisa Boots and Allison Green each delivered the North Stars one goal and one assist, Tristin Stetson furnished an insurance marker and Gabrielle Gibson snuffed 15 shots, only losing a shutout in the last minute.
The North Stars scored all three of their goals in a second-period span of 8 minutes, 50 seconds. Their championship came after they beat the Potsdam Icestorm of New York, 2-1, in the semifinals on Sunday. Earlier Sunday, the North Stars knocked off the Nova Ice Dogs of Virginia, 5-2, in the quarterfinals.
The North Stars are the first Alaska youth team to win a USA Hockey national championship since the Alaska All Stars 14-U girls bagged the Tier II title in 2013.
Meanwhile Monday, three Alaska girls won national championships playing for Tier I teams located Outside. Tier I is the highest level of American youth hockey.
Clair DeGeorge and Avery Dunn of Anchorage earned the 19-U national title with Shattuck-St. Mary's of Minnesota, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Mission in Rochester, Michigan. Dunn scored the game-winning goal and DeGeorge, who has won four consecutive national championships with Shattuck teams, furnished the primary assist on the decisive goal.
DeGeorge, who is ticketed for Minnesota State-Mankato, in January won a gold medal with Team USA at the Women's World U-18 Championship in the Czech Republic.
Wasilla's Mikayla Lantto won a Tier I 16-U national championship Monday with the Belle Tire of Detroit, which racked a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in Rochester. Lantto generated three goals and two assists in five games, and with two goals and a helper Sunday, had a hand in every goal of Belle Tire's 3-1 semifinal win over the East Coast Wizards of Massachusetts.