MARQUETTE - There won't be any sneaking in the back door for the City Insurance Sentinels girls hockey team this weekend.
The Marquette entry in the USA Hockey Tier II 16-and-under Girls National Championship will enter the knockout rounds as the No. 1 seed after winning its third straight game in convincing fashion on Friday afternoon.
Allison Carlson of Negaunee kept up her torrid pace by scoring all of her team's goals in the Sentinels' 5-1 victory over the Bock/Charles River, Mass., Blazers, the highest-ranked squad in the 12-team touranment.
Marquette City Insurance Sentinels co-captain Allison Carlson, right, of Negaunee works to get free from a Bock/Charles River, Mass., defender during the teams’ game at the USA Hockey Tier II 16-and-under Girls National Championships in Amherst, N.Y., on Friday afternoon. Carlson scored all of her team’s goals in a 5-1 victory to put Marquette as the No. 1 team in the 12-team tournament heading into this morning’s quarterfinal round. (Photo courtesy Pam Cornock)
Bock/CR was ranked No. 3 in the country while the Sentinels were No. 9, according to listings on the website MYHockeyRankings.com.
Marquette went 3-0 in pool play, outscoring its opposition 19-3, while Carlson, 16, has produced more than twice as many points as any other player at this event - 14 goals and three assists for 17 points. Next is Potsdam, N.Y., player Kalie Grant with 7-1-8, followed by another Sentinels player, 16-year-old Sydney Higgins of Marquette, with 2-4-6.
Friday's game was scoreless until early in the second period, when Carlson netted her opening goal with an assist, the first of two on the day, for 17-year-old Sydney Cornock of Marquette. Cornock had her birthday on Friday.
Cornock's father, Sentinels coach Jeff Cornock, said defense was the key to Friday's win.
"That was a really good team," he said by telephone on Friday evening about Bock/Charles River. "They battled for every puck.
"This was the first time that (Marquette goalie) Hannah (Riesland) was really tested. We tried to keep them outside, but Hannah was still tested early.
"We haven't been scoring early in games, and I think the girls were a little tentative early playing a highly ranked team. But the deeper we get into games, the more comfortable we get."
Riesland finished with 24 saves as the usually puck-controlling Sentinels were outshot 27-25. Charles River goalie Jessica Olivien had 22 saves.
A key stretch came late in the first period when the Sentinels went shorthanded 5-on-3 after Carlson and teammate Kirsten Iwanski, 16, of Marquette were whistled for simultaneous minor penalties with 2:11 left. Carlson's was for tripping and Iwanski for high sticking.
Between their defense and Riesland's goaltending, the Sentinels were able to prevent the Massachusetts team from getting the game's first goal.
"We got a lot of confidence from that," Jeff Cornock said about killing a full two minutes down a pair of his best players.
After finishing off the penalty kill with 11 seconds left in the first, Carlson needed just 1:17 of the second period to break the scoreless deadlock.
Bock/CR tied it with a goal by Julia Neelon with just over three minutes left in the period, but Carlson answered just 27 seconds later to make it 2-1 after two.
"I've been telling our girls, and I was saying it on the bench (Friday), 'You know you're going to get scored on at some time,'" Jeff Cornock said. "The most important thing is how you react to it.
"And when we got the lead back right away, I think you could see (the Charles River players) were just down. Their shoulders were slumped. I think they thought that they fought so hard to get that one goal, and we turn right around and get another one on them."
Carlson made it 3-1 with another Sydney Cornock assist exactly five minutes into the final period on a power play, then followed it up with two more, including a shorthander with 2:39 to go.
"Her shorthanded goal, well, that was just crazy, just remarkable," Jeff Cornock said. "She intercepted a pass and it was 1-on-3, and that was three players who were all right there on her. Somehow, she just got around all of them. It was like a (ESPN) Sportscenter-highlight play."
Higgins was credited with an assist on the team's fourth goal.
"Syd turned it on today," Jeff Cornock said. "It's like it's been all year - against the better teams our good players just play better."
Marquette enters this morning's quarterfinals as the No. 1 team from its half of the field, the National Division. The Sentinels face the host team, Amherst, N.Y., at 10:10 a.m. today. Amherst is No. 4 in the American Division after going 1-2, winning a one-goal game and losing one- and two-goal contests.
If Marquette wins that game, it faces the winner of the Potsdam-Vermont Shamrocks game at 4:45 p.m. in the semifinals. And a win there would put the Sentinels in the national championship game at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The Potsdam-Vermont game is a rematch of last year's national championship game, according to Jeff Cornock.
One thing the coach is looking forward to today is the return of one of his players, Emma Kaznowski, who has been in Costa Rica this week. She's scheduled to fly in and should be at the rink just minutes before this morning's game, he said.
While she's an all-around contributor on the 13-girl roster, she's particularly valuable on the Sentinels' power play, according to the coach.
Today's games will be broadcast on radio station WUPZ, 94.9 FM, The Point.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.