WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. -- When the Tier I USA Hockey National Championships are held in the Eastern Time Zone, you will not find a team that has to travel farther than one from Alaska.
This was the case with the Anchorage North Stars 12-and-Under team, which made this year’s tournament in the Buffalo, N.Y. area as the only Tier I team from the 49th state.
“We came in on Sunday,” Anchorage coach Ryan Moren said. “I’m glad we did, because it took us two days to re-acclimate to the four-hour time change. We practiced on Monday, practiced on Tuesday. Monday’s practice was really bad. It’s amazing how much jet lag there is and how tired you are when you are not used to the time change.
“Having a game 8 a.m. here is like a 4 a.m. game in Anchorage. Having to change and acclimate takes some time. We came in a couple of days earlier to get over that, and it’s worked out for us.”
The North Stars actually are representing the slot in the Minnesota District, and did not have to go through a regional tournament to get here. This tournament is an opportunity for the North Stars to play against many teams they had previously only heard about.
“We haven’t played many of the teams in this tournament,” Moren said. “I know some of the kids were a little bit skeptical of the big names like [Chicago] Mission, [Detroit] Compuware, like ‘oh boy.’ They came out and battled and represented the State well. We’re proud of the guys.”
Compuware was their first opponent, and the team from Michigan defeated Anchorage, 6-3. Team captain Maxwell Osborne, Jacob Smith, and Cameron Hausinger scored the North Stars’ goals.
On Thursday morning, they played a game of wild swings against Mid-Fairfield Blues, which resulted in a hard fought 5-4 loss.
Anchorage fell behind 3-0 before Hausinger scored a natural hat trick to knot it up. Mid-Fairfield scored twice within 47 seconds late in the second to take a 5-3 lead into the third.
Hausinger did it again early in the third to pull Anchorage within one. The North Stars applied heavy pressure in the waning seconds with their goalie pulled. A blast from the high slot was blocked by a defenseman to end the game.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” Moren said. “This is a special time for them. A lot of kids don’t get this opportunity. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A lot of these kids may not see it again. I think they are thriving on it, enjoying themselves.
“They’re having a great time. We played two competitive games and had a lot of fun doing it. I’m proud of them. They’ve done great.”
The Chicago Mission are next for Anchorage, who come from a state that certainly understands hockey.
“It’s kind of the sport,” Moren said of Alaska. “It’s a lot like Canada. Kids grow up playing hockey, because it’s cold six months of the year, and there’s a lot of outdoor ice to skate on. It’s fun to watch the kids to really catch onto the game and love the game, to get into a situation like this where they can show off all their work in the last seven, eight years.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.