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.
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.