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SAN JOSE, CAâ€“It took three overtimes, but at 3:30 Eastern Standard Time, with exactly 8:02 on the clock, Cailee LaPorte's ninety foot dump in fooled the San Jose goaltender, sending the Vermont Shamrocks to the USA Hockey Tier II Girls U-16 National Championship game.
"The girls played every shift as hard as they could," said Vermont coach Pat Burke. "We got amazing goaltending from Courtney Peyko and Victoria Gibson, and in the third OT, the puck bounced out way.
"San Jose were an amazing group of athletes, by far the best team we've played all year."
Things started out well for the green and white, as North Country's Corrina Cota scored her first goal of the tournament, on an assist from Michaela Martin, and it was 1-0 Vermont.
Then came the penalties.
Time after time after time, the Shamrock penalty-kill was put to the test, and the team responded wonderfully, turning away the Sharks at every turn.
San Jose appeared to crack the stingy VT D, but their goal was called back due to a high stick.
The Shamrocks took their 1-0 lead into the second, and thanks in large part to the stellar goaltending of Peyko, were able to hold onto the advantage.
Then Vermont caught a break.
Molly Dunphy fed Rachel Morse with about 4:00 left to play, and Morse buried it make it a two goal advantage.
Vermont made it 3-0 late in the second on a Jade Remillard tally, with Aliza Ellis getting the assist.
Then Sharks went to work, scoring three goals in the third period to force the extra session.
The Shamrocks would have power-play opportunities in both the first and second overtimes, but could not cash in.
Finally, LaPorte's long-range shot slipped past the Shark netminder, and the long, penalty-filled semi-final was over.
The girls hit the ice at 5:45 EST on Sunday to take on Potsdam, NY for the national title.
Stay tuned to the Express on Sunday night, April 7th, for the results of the game.
As always, thanks to Jeff Cota and Desiree Hurlburt for their in-game updates and insights.