Fourteen North Country high school girls are on the West Coast having one of the best experiences of their life, and at the same time, they are playing some pretty good hockey.
So far, the Chazy Flyers hockey team has a 2-1 record at USA Hockey's Under-19 girls Tier II National Championships in San Jose, Calif.
Most of the players in the Flyers' lineup skated with the New York state champion Beekmantown Eagles, but four key players on the team are from Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Sydney Battistoni, Jordy McDougall and McKayla Duffy are Saranac Lakers on the Flyers and Brooke Reid is from Lake Placid.
The national championship trip has been the highlight of the girls' hockey careers so far. Reid, Duffy, McDougall and Battistoni are all competing at a national championship tournament for the first time.
McDougall and Battistoni, both seniors, have been a steady blue line combination for the Flyers, and Duffy and Reid have made an impact up front. All four have notched two points apiece in three games played. Reid and Duffy have a goal and an assist, and Battistoni and McDougall both have two assists.
"It's the first season the girls from Saranac Lake and Lake Placid have been part of the team," said Flyers' coach Ray Guay, who also led Beekmantown to the girls state hockey title from behind the bench. "Without those girls, we wouldn't have a team, and they've really fit right into our system.
"The girls are like one big happy family," Guay added. "In the hockey world, it doesn't take long to come together as a team. We went out there with 14 players, so everyone is getting a lot of ice time."
The tournament features a dozen teams in two brackets - the American and National. The first three games determined seedings for the playoffs, which start with quarterfinals today and continue with semifinal and championship matchups Sunday.
Playing in the American bracket, the Flyers began the tournament with two straight wins, and wound up as the second seed after suffering their first loss Friday.
Chazy opened play Wednesday with a 10-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and followed with a 4-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Colonials Thursday. On Friday, Chazy fell 6-2 to the Keweenaw Storm of Michigan in a battle of unbeatens.
"This is the best time I've ever had playing hockey," Battistoni said. "Having the opportunity to be out there, playing this kind of hockey, it's pretty amazing. This is the fastest hockey I've ever played. You have to be a lot quicker and you have to think a lot quicker. There's no room for mistakes."
"I had no idea what to expect going to this tournament," McDougall said. "It's incredible. It's exciting. I was really nervous starting off in that first game, because you don't know what to expect, you don't how the other team is going to be. After a while, I felt like I settled in. It's really competitive."
The Flyers could possibly face Keweenaw again if both teams advance in the playoffs. Coach Guay said Keweenaw could be the best team in the tournament, but added Storm is beatable.
"That team is probably ranked No. 1 in the nation," Guay said. "We came out a bit flat today, and that didn't help us. On a good day for us, it would probably be one goal difference. We can beat them, but we have to play well."
Today in the quarterfinal round, the Flyers face the No. 3 seed from the National bracket in a game scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m Pacific time.
The games from the national championships can be seen online at fasthockey.com.
[This version of the article has been edited to correct an error in the original story. Brooke Reid of Lake Placid was misidentified as Kendra Manning. The Enterprise regrets the error.]