Alaska Team Travels to Nebraska for Girls Hockey High School Nationals

Despite a weird hockey season, girls high school hockey coaches persevered to put together a team of girls to play and represent Alaska at the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey High School Nationals in Omaha, Neb. 

The team was made up of high school players from Dimond, East, South, West, Chugiak-Eagle River, Service and Bartlett. 

Not only is the team made up of girls from different teams outside of school, on teams of different levels, but over half of the team is made up of freshmen and sophomores while the rest are just a handful of juniors and one senior—a very young team.

This is the third girls Team Alaska that was put together by Coaches Brian Gross (Dimond), Xavier Schlee (Dimond), Kate Wolgemuth (Chugiak-Eagle River), Jordan Hanson (Chugiak-Eagle River), and Bryce Akagi (South-Bartlett).

There were a total of 12 high school teams from various states including Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin, all competing for a National championship. 

The Team Alaska girls dominated their first three games in their competitive pool.

In their first game, they battled Milwaukee-Phoenix, from Wisconsin, to a 4-0 win and shutout for freshman goalie, Zoe Campbell, of Dimond High School. 

Myla Lubken (Chugiak-Eagle River), Nelly Clerc (South), Brielle Akagi (South), and Charlotte Kotlarchuk (Chugiak-Eagle River) all scored even strength goals. 

The next day, the team played their second game against Team Texas. 

Despite dominating all three periods of the game and Team Alaska Goalie, River Scott, a freshman from East, making 26 saves in regulation time, Team Alaska lost in a five-round-shootout with a final score of 1-0. 

Team Alaska redeemed themselves the following day after a hard-fought win against Team North Dakota with players Teila Saarinen (Chugiak-Eagle River) and Alena Glover (East) scoring one goal each with Isabel Goolie (South) scoring two goals and Elizabeth Ramsey (South) scoring on a shorthanded goal on a penalty kill. 

In crossovers, Team Alaska was bested by Premier Prep Forest from Minnesota, an older, highly skilled team of players.

Team Alaska did not step away from the game without giving the Premier Prep the satisfaction of a shutout. 

A shot from an Alaska defenceman off a fellow teammate to sophomore Nelly Clerc positioned behind the goalie gave Team Alaska their only goal of the game. 

By the end of the tournament, the Minnesota team captured gold and had 214 shots on net with 39 goals and 49 assists.

Even when Premier Prep bested Team Alaska in a 9-1 win, Alaska still walked away with a bronze medal and 3rd place title.

Although Alaska had 21 penalties (50 penalty minutes) in four games, they had a 100 percent effective penalty kill. 

Janessa Reimers, a junior who plays for Dimond, shared her thoughts on the team and outcome of the tournament. 

Reimers said, “The ultimate goal to come away with for me personally was to play the best I could. Obviously for the team, the goal was to win the championship title and put Alaska on the map.” 

Reimers added, “This is the best, most talented team Alaska has taken to Nationals. The most vital thing for improvement on future teams will be to have a longer season and be given more opportunity to meld together as one. 

 “More practices and team time will lead us to victory and a gold medal.” 

Xavier Schlee, one of the Dimond girls hockey coaches, alongside Brian Gross, also shared his thoughts on the tournament.

“The biggest challenge of coaching players from separate teams was that the majority of the National team had just competed against one another in a two-game series at Pacific Districts the week before. Building team chemistry was priority number one and we tried to design team activities that would help achieve that goal,” Schlee said.

Schlee also said, “Watching former competitors come together and support each other as one team was very rewarding for me as a coach, but the highlight of the tournament for me was Olivia Stone (West).”

“Stone quit hockey for good two years ago and came back to play her senior year. She played so well that she was able to compete on a National stage.

“Her final game ended with the puck on her stick. It’s hard not to love this game during moments like that.” 

The Team Alaska girls are scheduled to return next season to dig for gold in the 2022 National High School Championship.