Young Team Pittsburgh U16 girls squad gains valuable experience
Team Pittsburgh headed to San Jose, Calif., last week to compete in the USA Hockey Tier-I Under-16 Girls National Championships.
For the relatively young team, it was an experience that the players can feed off of for years to come.
To get to Nationals, Team Pittsburgh had to win the Mid-American District tournament. It defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, 2-1, and the Ohio Flames, 3-2, to qualify.
“It's an achievement to get to Nationals. I think that will stay with them,” assistant coach Russ Rahbany said. “One of the things that you see out there is how hard you have to work if you want to win.”
Playing in the American bracket, Team Pittsburgh lost, 1-0, to the Buffalo Bisons in the first game of pool play.
“We had them the whole game and it was unfortunate, but they scored in the third period,” defenseman Kayleigh Rahbany said. “That was the game we really could have won.”
Team Pittsburgh took a minor penalty for too many men on the ice at 11:15 of the third period.
“That penalty was the reason that we lost the game,” defenseman Arianna Kosakowski said.
The team was missing its top two centers, Bridget Carey (shoulder injury) and Lauren Ferraiuolo (school conflict), and defenseman Madison Mahre (school conflict).
“They were getting used to the new lineup in the first game,” Russ Rahbany said.
“I guess it took us that long to adjust to the absence and to play together as a team again,” Kayleigh Rahbany said.
The team does not practice on a regular basis and only comes together to play in tournaments.
“One of the things that's interesting about our team is that we have players from all over,” Russ Rahbany said.
“It's hard, but once we sort of get into the feel of things again, I guess we sort of get used to it and end up doing well,” Kayleigh Rahbany said.
Team Pittsburgh lost its second game, 4-2, to Chicago Mission, ranked No. 3 in the country prior to Nationals. Pittsburgh was leading 2-1 after two periods, but Chicago Mission scored three goals, including one on the power play, in the third period.
“They had a much bigger team than we did,” Kosakowski said.
Team Pittsburgh took three tripping penalties that period.
“Penalties definitely hurt us” Russ Rahbany said. “We spent too much of the game short-handed.”
The penalties made the short bench even shorter and fatigued the players more than usual.
“I think sometimes when you're tired, you get penalties that you otherwise wouldn't get because you're reaching instead of skating,” Rahbany said.
In its final game, Team Pittsburgh defeated the Islanders, 5-1. The five goals came in the first 10 minutes of the game, two on the power play. The Islanders answered with one goal at 11:29 of the first period, and the rest of the game was scoreless.
Team Pittsburgh narrowly missed advancing to the quarterfinals. The team's 1-2 record translated into three points, which was not enough to continue in the American bracket.
“If we had gotten one more point, we would have been playing,” Rahbany said.
The team is strong defensively, but defense was not enough to push Team Pittsburgh through to the next round.
“We're more defensive and then we needed more goals in the tournament, which is one of the reasons why we lost,” Kosakowski said.
Although it was disappointing not to advance, the overall feeling was a positive one.
“We all worked so hard together as a team,” Kayleigh Rahbany said. “We really came together and gave it our all.”
Amanda Iannuzzi is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.