ASHBURN, Va. -- After a late-season move brought Lincoln Flagg behind the 16-and-Under East Coast Eagles’ bench, the Eagles lost their first game.
They could not afford to lose another.
The Eagles closed the season with a 10-game winning streak that resulted in the AA title at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships. The Eagles clinched the title after Sunday morning’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Union Knights at the Ice House.
When it became clear that the coach of the aspiring Eagles team would not be able to accompany the squad to a potential national tournament trip, he stepped aside and Flagg, the general manager of the junior and youth teams for the Wake Forest, N.C.-based program, took over.
In Flagg’s first game, the Eagles lost 2-1 to the Junior Hurricanes in the North Carolina state championship game. The Eagles responded with four straight shutouts, including one in a rematch against the Hurricanes that sent the team to Northern Virginia for nationals.
That dominance continued until East Coast faced a couple of challenges early in Saturday’s semifinal and late in Sunday’s final.
“The boys responded very well to some changes I made on the power play, the penalty kill and on the forecheck,” Flagg said. “This is a solid team. They worked hard all year and the organization is proud of what they accomplished.”
The Eagles outscored opponents 56-10 during their 10-game winning streak in which they took each game by at least four goals — until the overtime final.
However, the Northern Virginia Ice Dogs provided some scary moments in the semifinals. The Ice Dogs scored in the first minute and took a 2-0 lead after one period while outshooting East Coast 9-3.
The Eagles responded by outshooting the Ice Dogs 17-2 and scoring three goals in the second period. Then they scored three goals in the final six minutes to claim a 6-2 victory.
“We made some adjustments going into the second period that seemed to work,” Flagg said.
Gavin Walker, the team’s leading scorer in the national tournament with five goals and six assists, had two goals to get East Coast to overtime in the final.
Walker created an early lead. He then came out from behind the net to win a race to a loose puck near the crease and backhanded it into the net in one motion for an unassisted power-play goal. That closed the regulation scoring with 1:08 left in the second period.
“He’s a tremendous hockey player and a goal scorer,” Flagg said. “He knows how to score goals. He knows where to put it. He doesn’t panic.
“He has great composure with the puck around the net.”
Josh George prevented Walker from scoring a hat trick and getting the game-winner 4:10 into the 10-minute sudden-death overtime period. The Union goalie used his blocker to send a shot up over the boards behind the net.
The Eagles had a 4-2 shot edge in overtime and decided the game at 7:38 when Matt Fuller sent a shot from the right point into the right upper corner of the net.
“The adversity we faced [Saturday] helped get us ready for this,” Flagg said.
Justin McEneny had four goals and four assists in the tournament. Fuller and Dan Brescia, who assisted his tournament-deciding goal, finished with four goals and three assists each. Harrison Drewitt stopped 86 of 93 shots at nationals while going 4-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.