If this afternoon’s game is any indication, U.S. Under-22 team head coach Alana Blahoski will have quite a decision to make when choosing her goaltender for next week’s series against Canada.
Colgate’s Rebecca Lahar and Wisconsin’s Meghan Horras took turns putting on a netminding clinic this afternoon, combining to save all 26 shots they faced in a 1-0 shutout of the White team at the Olympic Center in their final exhibition of the USA Hockey Women’s Festival.
“We were very pleased,” Blahoski said after the game, which came less than 15 hours after the conclusion of last night’s 5-3 loss to the Red team. “It’s always tough to play late at night, and then have to play early in the morning. They went especially hard last night in the third period, and then to come around and go hard for three periods again. They did an amazing job with that.”
“The Under-22s are a solid group,” said Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal, who is coaching the White team at the Festival. “They skate well, and they’re a bunch of tough kids. Their goaltending played really well.”
The goaltending at the other end of the ice was certainly nothing to sneeze at, as U.S. National Team keeper Pam Dreyer, Minnesota’s Jody Horak, and Minnesota State’s Shari Vogt all saw time in net for the White team. Still, it was Dreyer who gave up the game’s lone goal midway through the first period, as Minnesota-Duluth forward Jessica Koizumi came up with a score to give the U-22s an early lead.
The announcement credited the assists to Princeton’s Heather Jackson and high schooler Helen Resor, but Koizumi remembers it differently.
“I think it was a 2-on-1 with Sonny Watrous,” Koizumi said. “I just
saw her and connected with her, she passed it back to me, and I saw some net.”
From there, it was in the hands of the goalkeepers, as Lahar continued to make the most of her first festival appearance, stopping 13 shots in just over 30 minutes of action.
“It’s all a new experience to me,” said the Red Raider keeper, “but it’s been great so far. Everyone’s very competitive. It’s all the top names in Division I hockey and in the country, so it’s been a little bit intimidating, but [it’s been great].”
From there, Lahar handed the reins over to Horras, who matched her teammate save for save, wowing the crowd with several point-blank saves.
“It’s the fun game for me [at the festival],” said Horras, who gave up goals to Cammi Granato, Krissy Wendell, and Angela Ruggiero in last night’s game against the Red team. “It’s good for my confidence. I finally played my game, and the team played really well.”
The team will look to continue its strong play next week, when the Canadian Under-22 team comes to Lake Placid for a pair of games at the Olympic Center and a third game in Burlington at Vermont’s Gutterson Field House. The U.S. U-22s certainly feel ready after testing themselves at the Festival.
“I think playing against, pretty much the US National Team, all these girls, it’s going to bring us to that other level than Canada,” Koizumi said. “Right now, they’re just having a training camp, trying to decide their team,
while we’re practicing. We’re getting ready for them.”
While Koizumi and her teammates continue to get ready, the Red and White teams will close the Festival Sunday when they face off at 2 p.m. at the Olympic Center.