HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Chesterfield Falcons coach Ed Campbell never thought he would be in New Jersey in early April. At least, he never thought he’d be in the Garden State as head coach of a championship hockey team that capped a season based on perseverance.
Campbell, a former New York Rangers’ draftee who played 14 years mainly in the minors, led his team to a comeback 4-2 victory over New Canaan in the 14-and-Under AA title game at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships on Sunday afternoon.
Chesterfield was behind 2-0 through the early moments of the second period as New Canaan was the aggressor, storming the net and sending a flurry of shots to the net. It had all the makings of a long afternoon ahead for Missouri-based team.
But Chesterfield’s Chaz Palumbo found the net at 8:37, and he and his teammates appeared to begin to shift the game’s momentum.
Logan Ritchie, the second-leading scorer in the division with six goals and four assists, tied the game at 5:44 of the third period, and the game suddenly became a tussle for contract. Late in the game, Chesterfield was gaining control. It capped the surge when Cole Cutter flipped a 10-footer in the slot past Andres Falcon Giminez at 17:41 for a 3-2 advantage.
In the game’s final minute, with Giminez pulled for an extra skater, Chesterfield’s Noah Roofe scored an empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining.
It was a matter of persistent effort that vaulted the Falcons to their highest perch.
“We knew we were still in it down 2-0,” Campbell said. “These guys never quit all season. So we just kept plugging and chipping away. Once we tied it up, it seemed to take the wind out of them and really gave us life.
“That’s how it has been for us all season. If we fall behind, we know we can make a run sooner or later.”
Campbell noted how his team dealt with it share of setbacks, but the squad always managed to recover. As the season went on, a trip to the national championships began to feel more and more like a realistic possibility.
Campbell thanked assistant coach Grant Gorczya, a former Chesterfield player and recent Lindenwood University graduate, for his constant support.
“Everyone talks about getting to the national championship, but we just wanted to get better and better,” he said. “We had our share of ups and downs, but we just kept working through it.
“We won our league and lost in the championships. After we won regionals, I thought we might have a shot. We played a lot of strong teams and I really think it helped us. Our goaltending and defense became better, and we then knew we could play with anybody.
“It was good to have a measuring stick and to push ourselves. We were blessed with really good kids and that’s important. We preached team concept and it paid off for us.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The Dorchester Chiefs won a hard-fought USA Hockey National Championship, beating the Hollydell Hurricanes 3-2 to win the Tier II 18 & Under Conference 4A title game on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y.
Dorchester was challenged throughout the National Tournament. Five of the Chiefs’ six games were decided by two goals or fewer. In fact, the only game with a comfortable margin was their tournament-opening 7-2 victory over Hollydell, which played Dorchester much closer in the rematch.
Dorchester built a 3-0 lead after two periods, then held on to survive a Hollydell rally. The Hurricanes scored twice in the final nine minutes, including a goal that cut the margin to one with 35.9 seconds remaining.
Dorchester killed four of five penalties in the final 10:22 and Chiefs goalie Sal Tecci stopped a half dozen shots in a furious final minute of play.
“That last minute,” said Tecci, shaking his head in disbelief. “The goal they got with 30 seconds left, I didn’t even see it. I was screened on the play.”
“Then, after that, they were just all over us,” continued Tecci. “I just did my best to stop everything. Then, with about five seconds left, someone had the puck and got wide open right in front of me. My heart just stopped. Somehow, I just managed to get a glove on it.”
“You’d much rather see the puck down at the other end, I’ll tell you that,” Dorchester coach Ross Pasquantonio said. “All of us were holding our collective breath on the bench, watching the clock. There’s nothing else you can do.”
“It’s typical of them, taking it to the last minute and putting everyone on edge,” Pasquantonio continued.
The game didn’t start off as a nail-biter. Dorchester scored twice in the first three minutes of the game and seemed on track to match their comfortable win over Hollydell in the tournament opener.
Mike Lopez started the scoring 1:32 into the game with a goal from Nick Bligh. It was Lopez’s fifth goal of Nationals. Combined with his team-leading eight assists, Lopez ended up as the leading scorer for the Chiefs. Bligh recorded his seventh assist of the tournament, good for second on Dorchester.
A minute and 18 seconds later, Joe Dipietro scored his first goal of Nationals, helped by Mike Sullivan’s first assist.
In the second period, Dipietro fed Sullivan to give Dorchester a 3-0 lead. It was Sullivan’s fifth goal and Dipietro’s second assist.
The offensive show was a surprise for Dorchester, who depended on a small group of players for most of the tournament.
“We basically played the whole tournament with two lines,” Pasquantonio said.
The Chiefs got 25 of their 28 goals from five players and 32 of their 40 assists from six.
Part of the reason the Chiefs went a little deeper into their bench in the title game was their late night in the semifinals.
“The game lasted until 12:30 (Saturday) night,” Tecci said. “We went to overtime. We didn’t get to bed until about 2:30.”
“It was just a lucky break that we didn’t get a 10 a.m. start today,” Pasquantonio said of the team’s 1 p.m. start, the last of the four championship games played on Sunday.
One area where Dorchester didn’t go deep into the depth chart was between the pipes. Tecci played every minute of all six games, making Dorchester the only team in the finals not to use their backup netminder at any point in the tournament.
“I was brought in to be the main goalie,” Tecci said with a shrug, “but yeah, I guess I’m pretty beat. I saw a lot of shots.”
Tecci stopped an eye-popping 190 shots, including 34 in the championship game.
“Sal was the backbone of our team,” Pasquantonio said. “We needed him in order to get where we are. He’s the best I’ve ever coached. He has a bright future.”
Hollydell made things interesting in the third period as Dorchester seemed to show signs of a tough six days of hockey. Mike Schwer scored with 8:40 remaining in the game for his first tally of the tournament. Christopher Carnivale assisted.
Kevin Kiehner added the goal in the final minute that set up the frantic ending. It was his first goal of Nationals. James Privito contributed his team-leading fifth assist.
Dorchester was unbeaten on their way to the title game. After beating Hollydell in the opener, they beat Mt. Clemens 4-2 and Clifton Park 6-4.
In the quarterfinals, Dorchester took out Team Toledo 6-4, then beat the Northwest Chargers in a marathon game Saturday night.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.