Carolina Blazers

The North Carolina Trailblazers carried home the title from this year’s “Shop Till You Drop” tournament Dec. 2-4 in Charlotte, battling the Columbia Hot Flash to a 2-1 overtime victory at Eastland Mall’s Iceland rink.

The annual holiday tournament is a favorite for teams from states surrounding North Carolina, featuring fierce competition in the middle of a mall as holiday shoppers watch from store levels above the rink. This year’s tournament drew eight teams: two squads from the Raleigh-based Trailblazers – North Carolina’s decade-old women’s hockey program – as well as the host Charlotte Ice Cats, the Greensboro-based Triad Thunder, the Richmond (Va.) Raptors, the Atlanta (Ga.) Lady Thrashers and two teams from South Carolina: the Hot Flash and the Charleston Lady Rays.

In their first meeting during the round robin, the Trailblazers C squad and the Hot Flash fought to a 3-3 tie. Jake Jacobson led the Trailblazers’ attack with a hat trick, with assists from Jessie Loiacono (2) and Sarah Wachs. The Hot Flash had a balanced attack with goals by leading scorer Courtney Gibson, Veronica Bolus and Tracy Ort. The Trailblazers polished off the rest of the competition in the round robin, scoring a 4-1 win over the Triad Thunder, defeating Richmond 3-1 and finishing the preliminary round with a 5-3 win over Charlotte.

In Sunday’s final, the Hot Flash struck first with a goal by alternate captain Laura Fredrickson barely a minute and a half into the second period. The Trailblazers hit back 4 ½ minutes later as Robin Perron scored on a feed by Nicole Leech to tie the game at
1-1. With a crowd gathering to watch from the food court above, the teams battled through a scoreless third period and neared the end of overtime with the score still knotted. But with just over a minute left before the period expired, Jacobson – the Trailblazers’ leading scorer so far this season – took a pass from Debe Clarke and sent the puck home for the win.

The Trailblazers came away with a 4-0-1 record, scoring 17 goals as a team. Jacobson earned 8 goals and 2 assists, while Loiacono added 2 goals and 6 assists. Perron, Clarke and Ashley Bennett each contributed a goal and an assist. Erin Cochran, Sharon Bailey, Georgia Gray and Sue Mitran each scored a goal, and Leech, Wachs and Kendra Millis each added one assist. With the wins, the Trailblazers C team improves to 6-3-2 this season.

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