The New York State Tier II championships turned into an overtime bonanza.
In the three age groups that send teams to the USA Hockey National Championships, there were a total of six overtime periods played. The older the age group, the longer the games went.
The Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder defeated the Rochester Grizzlies 3-2 in a single overtime for the 14-and-Under crown. The closely fought game was decided on Bailey Conklin’s goal at 4:25 of the extra period during a power play.
Conklin picked up a rebound off to the side with a difficult angle but still managed to find a hole near side with a waist-high shot.
“Kind of all blurry right now,” St. Lawrence coach Bobby Smith said afterward. “The kids really worked hard, put forth a good effort. A close game like that, anybody can win it. Glad we came out on top, fortunately.”
Massena/St. Lawrence found itself down 1-0 and 2-1 before tying the game with 6:10 left in regulation, also on the power play. Kaden Pickering scored on a shot to the near side that barely found a hole. Special teams were the order of the day for the Thunder as their first goal came while shorthanded, scored by Jordan Robert on a wrist shot over the glove.
“Looking forward to going to the nationals,” Smith said. “Last year we got to the finals, so you’ll like to get back there. But that’s easier said than done. We’ll give it a shot.”
The 16U game took two overtimes to decide, but the Cheektowaga Warriors eventually beat the Plattsburgh Roadrunners, 5-4.
The oldest group topped them all with a three-overtime marathon. The Freeport Arrows won the 18U division after beating the Cheektowaga Warriors, 5-4. Assistant captain Bobby Oldmixon notched the winning goal with 3:15 left in the “sixth” period.
“The championship game was the best hockey game that I have ever seen in my life, period,” Freeport coach Chris Hogan said. “Almost three full overtime periods and no penalties called on either team for the entire game. The officials were top-notch the entire weekend, and in the finals they were absolutely beyond perfect. The game was a feat of attrition with both teams throwing serious knock out blows.”
All three overtime-winners will be heading off to their respective Tier II nationals championship tournaments. 14U is in Charlotte; 16U is in Troy, Mich,; and 18U is in Hartford, Conn. All three tournaments are April 3-7.
There is no longer a 12U national championship, so for the Niagara Junior Purple Eagles, winning the NYS title will be it. They defeated Elmira 5-2 in the championship game.
A solitary overtime title game for Tier I
In Tier I, the 16U group needed an extra period to decide the outcome. The Rochester Americans took the crown, defeating the Buffalo Regals, 2-1.
“The game was classic championship hockey,” Rochester coach Dave Maksymiu said. “Our goal was to make less mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. We did both. The overtime goal was scored on a mistake and turnover by them, and we were able to capitalize. The puck got turned over in our zone. We quickly transitioned and threw the puck at the net. A rebound resulted that they weren’t prepared for but we were. It was scored by Joey Saraceni.”
The Americans will be heading to Pittsburgh on April 3-7 for the USA Hockey National Championships. Pittsburgh will play host to all three national tournaments in Tier I.
“Our goal, once again, is to prove to ourselves first that we are a good team,” Maksymiu said. “Then to the rest of the field, too. We believe we can go there and win.”
Buffalo Regals take two to nationals
The two other Tier I nationals-bound age groups didn’t need any heart-stopping games to decide them.
The Buffalo Regals won the 14U title with a 6-0 shutout win over the Long Island Gulls. The Regals got stronger as the game went on, scoring once in the first, twice in the second, and three times in the third to put it away.
“I thought we got better and better all tournament long,” Buffalo coach Matt Barnaby said. “I think we have a very deep team. First time we were healthy all year long was just before states. They just battled. They came through. We didn’t run out of gas early. We ran into a very tough semifinal game with Syracuse. Triple overtime game, scored with 10 seconds left. You need a little bit of luck to get through it. We got through it. Against Long Island, the boys executed the game plan to perfection.”
The Regals are also Pittsburgh bound.
“We set three goals this year,” Barnaby said. “One was to win our league, which we did. One was to win states and for the first time go to nationals. And third is not done, yet. We want to win nationals. That’s what we’re going there for, and we’re going to give our best.”
The 18U group had four teams compete for the New York championships. In the opening game, the Buffalo Regals tied Clifton Park, 2-2. They wound up meeting again in the championship game. This time, Buffalo won it, 3-1.
Long Island Royals took the 12U title. This one was a back and forth thriller that nearly went into overtime. Long Island defeated the Westchester Express 5-4 when Jason Ruszkowski scored a breakaway goal with 43.6 seconds left in regulation.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Youth Tier I
14U: Buffalo Regals
16U: Rochester Americans
18U: Buffalo Regals
Youth Tier II
14U: Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder
16U: Cheektowaga Warriors
18U: Freeport Arrows
Girls Tier I
14U: Syracuse Nationals
16U: Buffalo Bisons
19U: Buffalo Bisons
Girls Tier II
14U: Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder
16U: Potsdam Ice Storm
19U: Chazy Youth Hockey