The K-Stars Girls Hockey teams made program history at the 2021 Michigan Girls Hockey League (MGHL) Playoff Championships held in Brighton April 17-18. Out of 61 registered teams in the league ranging from 10u-19u, the top 4 seeded in each division after pool play advanced to the playoff weekend. Not only did all 3 teams qualify, there are 3 championship banners going up in the rink at the Kaliseum to add to their collection.
The 16u team, coached by Kraig Visser, was first up playing their final game with USA Eagles from Bloomfield Hills. Bridgette Collins and Heidi Meglathery both scored with an assist from Jenna Hassell to put the Stars up 2-0, but the Eagles battled back to tie it in regulation. The two 5 minute OT's were scoreless forcing a shootout. Goaltenders Neva Voogd Allison Matuszewski split the final game and were both strong in net. Matuszewski held off the Eagles in the shootout, and K-Star Heidi Meglathery was the only player to score giving the 3-2 championship win to the Stars.
K-Stars 12u, coached by Jason Owens, played a nail biter in the semi final vs. KV Ravens Green. The game was scoreless until the 3rd period with Nicole Kerkela scoring the only goal for a 1-0 final. Kerkela had another great game in the 6-0 championship win facing Sylvania North Stars with 2 goals and a playmaker (3 assists). Collectively it was a team effort with goals from Lydia Owens, Caylee Carr, and Addison Gerrie with assists from Sara Outman, Sydney King, Fiona Walsh, and Riley Ingersoll. Kate Cousineau, brand new to hockey and goaltending, was stellar in net with 2 shutout wins to play a major role in bringing home the 2nd banner for the weekend.
The 19u team led by head coach Mark Tonello, had a score to settle coming into the league championships. They lost to the GR Griffins in the state playoff semi final with GR tying it up in the last 13 seconds of regulation and scoring in OT for the 2-3 final. GR advanced to the state final with KV Ravens and won the title in OT, giving them an automatic bid to play in the 2021 USA Hockey National Championships in Denver, CO April 29-May 3. On April 13, days before the MGHL Championship weekend, team manager Kim Visser received a call from the USA Hockey Michigan Registrar with the great news. K-Stars 19u received one of 2 at-large bids to attend the National Championships in Denver. "They definitely deserve this opportunity, " said Visser. "After winning the state title last year to find out 3 days later the national tournament was canceled due to Covid was devastating. Scheduling and rescheduling has been a challenge, but the girls had a great season playing competitively with many Tier 1 franchises and were nationally ranked in the top 5 out of over 100 teams all year. I don't think anyone could argue they aren't deserving of the trip out to Colorado. I'm beyond excited for all of the girls to have this experience."
KV Ravens received the other at-large bid, and the Stars played them in the league semi final and won 6-3. Ellie Visser scored 2 goals, and forwards Kaitlyn Williams, Reese Gingrich, Paige Adams, and Josie Riebow also found the back of the net with assists from Aziza Burgoon, Kallen Micolo, Paige Beauchamp, Riebow, Williams, and Visser. The stage was set for a K-Stars vs GR final. Defenseman Carly Sato scored the first goal of the game, and Lindsey Tonello put 2 in along with Jordan Usiondek scoring in regulation with assists from Kallen Micolo, Aliyah Adams, Ellie Visser, and Reese Gingrich. Once again, the teams ended in a tie forcing a 4v4 5 minute overtime. With just over a minute left in OT, Paris Wegleitner took a wide shot pulling their goalie to the right side of the net, and the puck bounce off the boards to the opposite side gave Jordan Usiondek the perfect opportunity to bury it for the 5-4 victory. Usiondek shared, "This was definitely redemption from our run at states. The feeling to come away with a win was unreal." Goalies Ally Hundley and Bree Schroer split both games and greatly contributed to both wins for the weekend, as did the entire team of 14 skaters.
USA Hockey recently released the tournament schedule and will have two 19u Tier II divisions of 12 teams, crowning two National Champions for the first time. The K-Stars are in the 2A division, which consists of 11 of the top 13 nationally ranked teams. Games begin on Thursday, April 29. The K-Stars will face Boston Jr. Eagles (#1), Nashville Jr. Predators (#12), and Alaska All Stars (#6) in pool play. The 19u Tier II schedule and results can be found at nationals.usahockey.com. Live streaming is not permitted, but subscribers to HockeyTV will be able to watch the games live.
Assistant Coaches Chris Adams, Derek Beauchamp, and Kraig Visser were all an integral part in getting the K-Stars Tier II program off the ground in 2014. They each have 2 daughters, and all 6 girls have played or are currently playing on the 19u team. Coach Visser, who will be hanging up his coaching hat, is looking forward to the experience in Colorado. "This is the last weekend my daughter Ellie, along with 9 other players including Aliyah Adams and Paige Beauchamp, will be wearing a K-Stars jersey. I couldn't be more excited for their youth hockey careers to come to an end on the National stage with this team. I'm so proud of all of our 17 players for their success and hard work, but more importantly the sense of family we have within the entire K-Stars organization. It truly is something special."
Go get 'em, K-Stars!