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.