ASHBURN, Va. -- The 16-and-Under Oakland Junior Grizzlies were able to count on Joseph Savel for a goal in every game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships.
Savel had perfect timing on his championship-game goal.
The 1997 birth-year forward from Clinton Township, Mich. put Oakland ahead to stay in the third period on the way to a 3-2 victory over the St. Lawrence Thunder in the AAA final.
Savel’s reliable scoring and steady special teams play carried Oakland through the medal rounds. Both attributes were part of the go-ahead goal.
Just 19 seconds into a power play in the title game, defenseman Theo Calvas worked the puck deep into the left corner. Calvas then fired a pass toward the front of the net. Savel was there to settle the pass and score for a 2-1 lead at 3:36 of the third. The assist was Calvas’ only point of the tournament.
“It happened so fast,” Savel said. “I just wanted to get it off and when I did, it went in. It was just a great pass. We were able to take momentum, and we ended up getting another one so that was great.”
Brandon VanOphem scored on an assist from Joseph Barton at 8:31 for a 3-1 lead.
The Grizzlies wound up needing the cushion.
The Thunder scored with 58 seconds left, and Oakland did not secure title until the very end. St. Lawrence won an offensive zone faceoff with 6.5 seconds left and its goalie pulled, but the Grizzlies’ defense smothered a desperation shot in front of the net.
Only St. Lawrence’s Kaden Pickering, who opened the tournament with four straight two-goal games, had more goals in AAA than Savel, but Oakland kept Pickering off the board in the final.
Savel wound up leading all AAA players in assists (11) and points (17).
“I was really excited about it,” said Savel, who is hoping the performance helps him land a chance to play at a higher level after progressing through the Grizzlies youth programs for seven years. “I thought I played pretty well this tournament.”
Coach Brad Jones said the Grizzlies have been able to rely on Savel’s production all season.
“He was our top offensive player,” Jones said. “He sees the ice very well. He comes up big in big games and he proved it again in this national championship. We had numerous guys chipping in for us to get here. Everyone contributed in their own way, and that’s why we’re wearing the medal.”
Oakland was the only semifinalist with a loss in the tournament.
After falling to the Dallas Penguins Friday in the final game of pool play, the Grizzlies eliminated the unbeaten leaders of each of the other three pools during bracket play.
Oakland got two power-play goals in each of those games, going 6-for-22 (27.3 percent), while its penalty kill held opponents to 2-for-20 (10 percent).
In the final, the Grizzlies stopped the Thunder five times, including 23 seconds of 5-on-3 play to end the first period and start the second, and four minutes shorthanded in the game’s final 12:18.
As the last seconds of penalty killing wound down with 2.5 minutes left and the Grizzlies still ahead by two, Mark Rogers, the team’s second-leading scorer in the tournament, used his body to make a diving block of a shot from the point.
“We were put to the test late in the game, but we had guys going down, blocking shots, doing what we had to do,” Jones said.
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.