WAYNE, N.J. – Within a four-minute span, Jayce Dorman scored two first-period goals, one on a breakaway and another while sitting on the seat of his pants, to lead the Knoxville Ice Bears to a 5-1 victory over the Idaho Junior Steelheads in the 18-and-Under 1A championship game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships at the Ice Vault Sunday morning.
The Ice Bears, who added two empty net goals to seal the victory, became the second team from Tennessee to capture a national title at any level and the first team to do so from Knoxville.
The Ice Bears wasted little time taking control of the contest, scoring three times in the opening period. Just six minutes into the game, Aaron Liner scored on a power play goal, with assists awarded to brothers Lucas and Gage Despins.
A little less than three minutes later, Dorman got the first of his two goals, skating fast ahead of the Idaho defense to beat Idaho goalkeeper Kendel Askew to the short side. Gage Despins earned his second assist of the game, along with Corey Staples, pushing Knoxville’s lead to 2-0 at the 9:44 mark of the first.
Dorman then tallied his highlight-reel goal. He took the play into the Idaho zone but ended up falling down. Relentless with his pursuit of the puck, Dorman then fired a shot while sitting on the ice and the hard shot eluded Askew. Gage Despins recorded his third assist of the game on the play at 15:25 of the period.
“I thought I had a good shot, but I was falling back and didn’t want to blow it,” said Dorman, a junior at Knoxville Catholic High School. “I did what I was taught to do. Just get it and play it to the net and see what happens. I made good contact with it and it just happened to go in.”
The three-goal barrage forced Askew to the bench in favor of David Troyer.
“I think that set the tone for us,” Dorman said of his two goals. “After that goal, it made us comfortable. We weren’t as tight, and it made us relax.”
The Steelheads could not muster a shot on Ice Bears’ net minder Mitchell Kestner throughout the entire first period and even six minutes into the second period. Knoxville had a commanding 13-0 lead in shots on goal after one stanza.
The Steelheads finally broke through midway through the second period, when Alex Waddel, the tournament’s top goal scorer, tallied his seventh of the tourney to slice the commanding Knoxville lead to 3-1 and make the game much more competitive. Sam Goodman recorded the assist. Knoxville still held an overwhelming advantage in shots at 22-7 after two periods, but it was only a two-goal deficit on the scoreboard.
“I thought we still had a chance at that point,” said Waddel, who is headed to Cal Poly in the fall and study physics. “We just couldn’t get another.”
Steelheads goalie Troyer did his best to keep his team in the game, making three huge saves in the opening stages of the third period, including a shoulder save on a breakaway attempt by Mason Jobe. Troyer stopped the initial shot, then dove to poke away a rebound opportunity. Troyer was outstanding in goal, stopping all 19 of the shots he faced after he entered the game.
However, Liner, who scored the first goal in the first period, scored a goal into the empty net to push the Knoxville lead to 4-1. Gabe Despins then capped his great game with an empty net goal with 51 seconds remaining, giving him a goal and three assists for the day.
“This is something we’ve been dreaming about for four years,” he said. “We’ve been playing together for four years. We went to the U16 [national championships] in Green Bay two years ago and didn’t do so well. I can’t put words to this.”
Ice Bears goalie Mitchell Kestner was solid and steady in net, stopping 18 of the 19 shots he faced to earn the victory.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.