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NA Stars Compete for Bronze Medal

April 25, 2011

The North American Stars “construction worker” style of hockey play continued on during the team’s  bronze medal game against the West Coast Selects at Letnany Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on April 25, 2011.  The determined and impassioned play that has become the hallmark of the team, however, was not enough to bring home a medal as the Stars grudgingly succumbed to the West Coast Selects by a score of 4-2.  It was, overall, a good showing from a team comprised of girls from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana as well as Ontario and Quebec, Canada and who had only come together ten days ago.    

It seemed – at least for a while – that the North American Stars would break out of their scoring slump and avoid the parade of bad bounces that had followed them during the course of the World Selects Invitational tournament.  The tight bronze medal game was dead-locked at two goals apiece late in the second period when the mishap occurred.  A jumbled line change by the Stars led to an odd-man rush by the West Coast Selects who took advantage of the error to go ahead 3-2 with less than three minutes left to play.  “There was a little miscommunication on the line change,” said Stars’ coach Bernie Cassell.  “We had two forwards and three “d” and then one “d” came back to the bench.  There was a two-on-one and then, bang.  That cost us the bronze.  It just happens but it’s magnified in a situation like that.”  

The Stars took a last ditch effort to even the score with about one minute left to play and the Stars on the power play.  With an extra attacker on the ice for the Stars and a face-off in the West Coast Selects’ zone, an icing play off of the face-off found the Stars’ empty net to account for the 4-2 final score.   The icing goal was a “slap in the face” said defenseman Tess Drauschak. 

Nevertheless, it was a valiant effort by the Stars who never stopped battling.  After falling behind early in the game, a power play strike by Gabrielle Poirier with just over two minutes left in the first knotted the score. The Stars came right back only 22 seconds into the second to go ahead 2-1 on a lucky bounce off of a Shana Alexander shot.   “One of the issues all week is that we couldn’t score goals,” said Cassell.  “We weren’t getting breaks.  When it went off the defenseman’s pads and went in I thought, maybe this is it.  Maybe the hockey gods are smiling on us.”  

A victory was not in the cards for the Stars as the team could not muster another score.  “It was such a letdown because we thought we could pull it out,” said Drauschak, who added that getting into a medal round was “really cool.”

Post-Tourney Activities.   Gabrielle Poirier’s goal came off of her new stick – the one she needed after it shattered during a hard fought game against the European Select.  Poirier has always been a humble goal scorer according to Helene Caron, who accompanied Gabrielle on the trip along with Lucie Poirier.  “This is the first time I saw her celebrate,” said Caron.

After the game, the girls rebounded quickly.  They broke into song (as has become habit) on the bus ride back to the hotel.  Once at the hotel, they quickly got to work signing each others’ jerseys.  There were a series of team photos taken before coach Cassell also addressed the players and parents.  “Everyone was really high energy and they played for each other,” said Cassell.  “I have to say it was a pleasure working with the players and getting to know the families.  We all had a great time over here.”   He also told the parents that he tried to explain to the players how lucky they are because of the dedication of their parents.  He also noted that he had not known what to expect when he came to Europe to coach the team but he was “thoroughly impressed by the speed, pace and determination of [his] players and how hard they battled.”

The Semi-Final Game.  On the morning of April 25, the Stars faced the East Coast Selects in tournament semi-final play.  On the plus side, the Stars made it to the semifinals.  On the negative side, the team was again facing the undefeated East Coast Selects who had handed the Stars a 4-0 loss on April 24 – despite the Stars’ strong play.  This time, the Stars struggled and wound up on the losing end of a 7-0 score.  The stage was set when the East Coast Selects struck on a breakaway less than two minutes after the start of the game.   To their credit, the girls kept the game close over the rest of the period and entered the second with only a two goal deficit.  Five more unanswered goals were notched by the East Coast Selects in the second.    

“I said to the team that we made mistakes, we weren’t ready and that we were back on our heels,” said Cassell.  “I let them comment and I gave them some feedback that was harder on them than I have been up to this point.  I then said it’s over and not to carry it with them.  That’s the beauty of the game.  On the next shift, you can go back in and change things.”

Tournament Reaction.  Here are some thoughts from parents of player as well as the players regarding the World Selects Invitational experience:

Al Tenenbaum (grandfather of forward Ronnie Callahan):  “I found it very enjoyable.  I’m very proud of the kids.  They tried hard.  I enjoyed seeing the sites and I enjoyed the people.”

Helene Caron:  “We enjoyed the trip.  It was a very good experience for the girls – to see all the talent of all the players.  It was a good experience.”  

Wendy Mackey (mother of defenseman Tessa Mackey). “ It was incredible hockey.  We were open, excited and thrilled to meet new people and make new friendships . . . It was magical.”

Nancy Glass (mother of defensemen Tala Glass).  “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”  On coach Cassell – “ He was awesome.  It was great to have a coach teaching all of the time.”

John Alexander (father of Shana Alexander):  “I came here with an open mind.  It was a chance to see Europe with some hockey involved.  It turned out to be trip of a lifetime and to see my daughter compete at the highest level.  It was amazing.  The city was breathtaking.  We’ll take a lot away from this trip – a lot more than we realized.  The coaching staff was over the top.”

Tessa Mackey:  On the game against the West Coast Selects  – “We were feeling we just wanted to do it for each other and the parents who put so much time and effort.  We wanted to show that we were good and not just another team.”  On the trip – “I didn’t know what to expect.  It meant a lot to be asked to come and play and to play against so many teams from all over the world and to see places in general.”  And on the team camaraderie – “It’s hard to explain, we just kinda met and automatically bonded.  I can’t say I’ve experienced something much like that before.  It was very different and unique.”

Shana Alexander:  “I enjoyed it.  It is the first time I have been here.  I like my team.  I was happy to be a part of it.  I’ll have good memories.”  She also noted that Cassell had “taught me a lot of cool face-offs that I’ve never seen before.  He’s a great coach.”

Tess Drauschak:  “We were individuals.   Now, we’re thinking more as a unit.  I love these girls.  It was so fun.”

Coach’s Comments:  On the team – “Honestly, I can say that our 6 “D’ and 9 forwards and goalie, for all of them, I saw a lot of improvement throughout the week – from the first practice in Munich to today’s bronze medal game.  And mostly, I’m impressed with the determination and energy of the players.  Each day they competed harder and better than before.”  On hockey – “For me personally, I don’t care if it’s a mite player, a 13 year old girl or an NHL game.  It’s hockey and if a player wants to compete then I want to be a part of it.  I was blown away by the energy, pace and competition level here.  When you play with pride and passion, you’re a hockey player in my book.”  On the girls – “They’re a team of hockey players.” 

Schedule ahead: The team had one last night in Prague and will be to Munich by bus early in the morning on the journey back home. The girls have already exchanged contact information and hope to be able to get together for another tournament soon.



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