The Little Caesars AAA (LCAAA) Hockey Club 19U Girls hockey team finished its season on a high note, making history by winning the club’s first-ever 19U Girls national title. The impressive accomplishment was celebrated by the Detroit Red Wings during their last home game of the 2021-22 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before the game, Michigan natives Red Wings alternate captain Danny DeKeyser and Penguins’ Bryan Rust, joined U19 girls captain Clara Yuhn for an on-ice ceremonial puck drop. Alongside Yuhn were other Michigan-born hockey champions being honored: Matt Eller of the NCAA Division 3 Men’s Hockey National Champion Adrian Bulldogs, and Abby Roque and Megan Keller, who represented United States at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, bringing home silver medals.
While in the stands, the LCAAA U19 Girls team was asked to stand as the crowd at Little Caesars Arena enthusiastically cheered for them. Many of the players said being recognized by the Red Wings team and fans was a one-of-a-kind experience that they would never forget.
“It’s super exciting to be able to celebrate, bring the team back together and be honored in front of so many people,” said goalie Bailey Callaway. “As women in the sport, this is not something you always have the privilege of doing.”
While being recognized at Little Caesars is an honor, Callaway says it’s even more of a unique opportunity to use the same facility as the Red Wings. “Playing and practicing in a state-of-the-art rink where an NHL team plays has allowed us the tools to accomplish our goals,” she said.
In March, the 12U, 14U and 19U teams took home state championship titles, and on April 4, the 19U team came out victorious in the Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I Girls 19U National Championship against the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers.
“This team has worked so hard this year,” Little Caesars head coach Rocky Thompson said. “This is so special for them. I’m so proud of how they handled situations, the ups and downs of the tournament. I loved how they grew over the course of the tournament. I’m very proud of them.”
Elyssa Biederman, who plays forward for the U19 girls team said of the championship win, “To know that you accomplished your dream is something you can’t describe.”
Beyond learning the sport on the ice, the program’s director, Manon Rheaume, intentionally embedded life lessons and education into the program and its participants. Players from the team recently committed to play college hockey at their individual schools of choice as they wrapped up their hockey season and school year.
Ella Blackmorehas committed to play at Northeastern University, saying that hockey is “a staple” in her life. Biederman agrees.
“Hockey has been a constant in my life,” said Biederman, who committed to Colgate University. “It would feel almost empty if I didn’t have it; so having the ability to play in college just makes it more real and exciting.”
With Rheaume as the program’s director – as a hockey legend in her own right – the team takes heed to her wisdom, hoping to inspire the next generation of young women in hockey to make history as they have. “Know your dream and have it in your mind all the time, and work hard at it,” said Biederman. “Because hard work always beats talent, and it’ll show in your play.”