WEST CHESTER, Pa. — The New Jersey Devils Youth arrived at the Ice Line Quad Rinks for the Atlantic District championships well aware that it would take a special effort to overcome Team Comcast, an opponent it had been chasing all year.
The West Orange-based Devils Youth found what was necessary to get past Comcast in the deciding game of a best-of-three series by combining a defense that held up to relentless pressure with forward Augie Burkhardt’s ability to deliver when given a chance to produce the winner.
Burkhardt scored 3:23 into overtime March 17 to lift the Devils Youth to a 3-2 victory, the district 14-and-Under Tier I title and a berth in the USA Hockey National Championships April 3-7 in Pittsburgh.
With Team Comcast trying to escape its own end, Timmy Clifton applied the pressure that helped make the puck pop free high in the slot.
Burkhardt got there first. Before Team Comcast could react, he snapped a wrist shot under the crossbar from about 25 feet to end the series and give the Devils Youth their biggest victory in a season series that had been controlled by Team Comcast.
“It really just got chipped up to me,” Burkhardt said. “I just got it and shot it quick. I didn’t really pick corners; I wanted to get it on net.
“I shot it really fast.”
Burkhardt was in position to win the game and series with the first shot of overtime because of the way the Devils Youth goaltending and defense held up.
Peter Negron made 47 saves. He shut out Comcast for two periods with 28 saves, then stopped 19 of 21 shots in the third period when Comcast twice rallied to tie the game.
“We have great goaltending and our defense really stood on their heads,” Burkhardt said.
Defensemen Ryan Bogan, Andrew Petrillo, Zach Berzolla and Brendan Less contribute on both ends of the ice, ranking among the team’s top seven scorers along with Burkhardt, Sam Field and Derek Contessa.
The Devils Youth (30-7-6) finished two points behind Comcast in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League standings. Comcast was 3-1-1 vs. the Devils during the season and won the AYHL playoff title with a 5-1 victory over the Devils.
“We knew each other well,” Devils coach Jim Elia said.
Chet Morgis had two goals in a 4-3 win in the opener of the best-of-three Atlantic District series. He scored 1:09 into the game and connected again for a 4-2 lead with 8:38 left. Michael Nisky had a goal and two assists. Markes Dickson scored twice for Comcast.
Comcast, coached by former NHL player and Canadian Olympian Keith Primeau, tied the series 5-1 the next day when A.J. Drobot had a hat trick and an assist. Cayden Primeau made 24 saves.
“We were a step slow,” Elia said. “We just had to get back to the way we played the first game.”
In Game 3, Chet Morgis scored off a scramble in front with 4:07 left in the first period for the Devils. New Jersey never trailed in Game 3. Matthew Lavalette and Alex Borowiec had assists.
Comcast broke the shutout with 10:44 left on a goal by Nolan Jones.
Nisky converted a rebound of a Morgis shot to put the Youth back in front 7:18. Jones scored again for a tie with 3:15 left in regulation.
Against a steady stream of Comcast shots, the Devils Youth waited for their chance.
“We knew this was the game we needed to get,” Burkhardt said. “We just kept our heads up.
“We’re the kind of team that we don’t give up.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.