Dedham’s Sierra Semmel began skating when she was 3 years old and hopes to attend prep school some day.
Mikayla McLaughlin of Glenburn is from a hockey family. Older brother Reid led Brewer High to a state Class B championship in 2007 and older sister Katie played for the Brewer varsity and JV teams as a freshman a year ago before transferring to the Taft School in Watertown, Conn.
Orono’s Molly McAleer is an eighth-grader at Orono Middle School who may head to Kents Hill next fall to pursue her hockey career.
Those three Bangor-area girls and their teammates on the Central Maine Youth Hockey 14-under Selects will begin play in the National 14-Under Tier 2 Tournament in East Lansing, Mich., today.
The team, based in Winslow, left by bus Monday.
The team needed to reach the championship game at the eastern regional to earn a berth in the national tournament and wound up winning the regional.
They take a 33-3-3 record into the national tournament.
“We work real well together and we all get along great,” said Semmel, a seventh grader at the Dedham School who is the team’s leading scorer. “We’ve got some real good players.”
The team is living proof that quality can overcome quantity.
There are only 13 players on the team. Coaches Steve Provencal, Mike Nawfel and Bruce Michonski have two lines with two spare forwards; four defenseman and one goalie although there are others capable of playing between the pipes.
In fact, Anne-Marie Provencal was Skowhegan High School’s starting goalie this year but is playing defense for the U-14s.
Winslow’s Jess Cain is the goalie.
“We don’t give up many goals. We have a real strong defense and some pretty good forwards,” said McLaughlin. “We’re all pretty fast. Anne-Marie can really shoot [slap shots] from the point and that really helps us out.”
It is a dedicated group as evidenced by their hectic schedule.
The girls practiced two nights a week at Winslow’s Sukee Arena throughout the season and they played games on the weekends including tournaments in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
They have also had to raise $24,000 to cover the trip to Michigan. Steve Provencal said they held a bottle drive and the girls wrote letters to people and businesses to try to drum up donations.
Provencal said the CMYHA has been extremely generous financially.
So it has been a full-time commitment for the girls and their families.
“I was a little nervous at first,” said McAleer. “I was wondering how I was going to juggle my schoolwork and hockey. But it has worked out real well.”
The U-14s have allowed just 28 goals in 39 games while scoring 161. They went 5-0 in the regionals at Sukee Arena and outscored their opponents 22-3.
Steve Provencal said he and his fellow coaches decided that since they had only 13 players, they were going to put four of their best players on the blue line and it has worked out nicely.
“They’ve controlled play for us,” said Provencal.
In addition to his daughter, Anne-Marie, the other defensemen are Makaela Michonski of Norridgewock, Savanna Poole from Edgecomb and Allie Spinney from Old Orchard Beach.
Poole played varsity hockey at North Yarmouth Academy and Spinney played for the Portland Junior Pirates boys team, so they missed several games. However, they played at the regionals and helped lead the team to the title.
Semmel and Waterville’s Jena Nawfel center the two lines and Nawfel is the second leading scorer behind Semmel.
Semmel has 43 goals and 22 assists in 39 games, including 10 goals and two assists in the five regional games, and Nawfel has 32 & 20, including 4 & 5 in the regional.
Brooke Michonski, younger sister of Makaela, has 21 & 24.
The other forwards are Winthrop’s Annie Guerette (10 & 15) and Nicole MacMillan (4 & 10), McLaughlin (11 & 8), McAleer (3 & 7) and Skowhegan’s Sarah Finnemore (6 & 6).
Makaela Michonski (13 & 21) is the top point-getter among the defensemen followed by Provencal (9 & 16), Poole (2 & 9) and Spinney (5 & 2).
There will be 12 teams divided into two pools in the tournament. Maine is in Pool B with Niagara Jr. (N.Y.), today’s 10 a.m. opponent; the Bay State Breakers (Mass.), the Connecticut Northern Lights, Pittsburgh and Michigan.
Pool play will determine who goes on, and it will be single elimination after that.
They beat Connecticut 2-1 in the regionals.
“I’m real excited. This is a pretty big deal for a team from Maine to go to the nationals,” said McLaughlin. “And I think we have a pretty good chance. We’ve already beaten Connecticut.”
McLaughlin’s sister, Katie, will also be there playing in the Under-16s for Connecticut.
“I think we’re going to do real well,” said McAleer. “We just need to keep a positive attitude.”