From staff reports
GRAND RAPIDS — The favorites were left to watch.
Behind a smothering defense, the Traverse City North Stars girls U-19 hockey team blanked Huron Valley 3-0 to win the ADRAY state championship here last Sunday.
The North Stars finished the four-team tournament 2-1-1.
“The girls played up to their potential,” coach Ry Muzzarelli said. “It was nice to see them firing on all cylinders.”
Especially defensively in the championship game.
“We put a lot of pressure on Huron Valley,” Muzzarelli said. “We didn’t let them bring the puck up the ice. We smothered them all game.”
Goalie Lillian Klinetop was the recipient of that strong defensive effort.
“They didn’t get a lot of scoring opportunities — and the shots they did get were from bad angles,” Muzzarelli said.
Four of the six teams in the ADRAY qualified for the post-season tournament — the top two in the north and south divisions. The North Stars were second to Cheboygan in the north, Huron Valley second to Midland in the south.
The North Stars tied Midland 2-2 and then lost to Huron Valley 2-1 Saturday morning to put their title hopes in jeopardy. But a 6-3 win over Cheboygan, a season-long nemesis, was enough to let the North Stars advance.
“It was a little bit of a rollercoaster,” Muzzarelli said. “We had our ups and downs. The game Saturday afternoon against Cheboygan was a must win for us to get into the finals. The girls came out and played really well.”
The North Stars still needed help, though. They had to have Huron Valley beat Midland. When that happened, the North Stars tied Midland for the final spot in the championship — and they won the tie-breaker based on goal differential. The win over Cheboygan also provided the North Stars a mental boost.