GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You never want to wake up a sleeping giant. Victory Honda might have done that, but not intentionally.
Victory Honda took a 1-0 lead in the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Youth National Championships 18-and-Under title game Sunday, but Shattuck-St. Mary’s erupted for three consecutive goals en route to a 4-2 victory at Cornerstone Ice Center.
“It was almost like a wake up,” Shattuck-St. Mary’s forward Ryan Norman said. “We just got right back at it and got a quick goal after that and just kept building off it.”
The first two Sabres goals came in a span of 4.5 minutes early in the second period.
“We just kind of relaxed a little bit and realized that this is the last game of the season and you’ve got to calm down and give it all you’ve got,” said Chase Phelps, who will play at Boston University next season.
The national title is the third in the last four seasons and sixth in 10 years for the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 18U youth program. Coach Tom Ward has been at the helm for 16 years and knows how to win the big game.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get a couple and they’re all unique, they’re all different with a different group of guys,” Ward said. “I’m super happy for the kids. It’s been a great day for our program all the way around.”
Norman, who has committed to play at the University of Minnesota in 2016, has been at Shattuck-St. Mary’s for four seasons but captured his first national championship.
“This is a great feeling, especially after all the time and all the hard work we put into it this season,” Norman said. “All the long Tuesday practices and cold winter days, it all adds up and then here’s what we get.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s showed it was the more skilled team with eight Division I signees and verbal commits, including three to Minnesota. Victory Honda had a tough time slowing down the Sabres’ potent offense.
“For us, we just try to do our thing and not even worry about who we are playing,” Victory Honda coach Brian Burke said. “We made it through two [periods] and thought we had a chance, but it didn’t work out.”
Dylan Fouts scored the first goal for Victory Honda as he found a tight area at the side of the crease and beat Shattuck-St. Mary’s goalie Lukas Kania to make it 1-0 at 1:11 of the second period. The Sabres answered with goals by William Bender and Norman to go up 2-1 at the 8:42 mark of the second.
“It was just kind of the end of my shift and I cut across the blue line hoping to get a lane,” Norman said about his goal. “A guy stepped up on me and I just kind of shot it on net and I think it went in high glove.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s, which didn’t commit a penalty the entire game, took a commanding 3-1 in the third period thanks to a Colt Conrad tally.
The Sabres were outshooting their opponents by 12 shots when Victory Honda started peppering Kania, who finished with 28 saves. Victory Honda finally got one in the back of the net as Nathan Bryer scored at 11:09.
“Once they scored, I thought we calmed down,” Ward said. “It was 3-2 and I thought we actually played better than when it was 3-1.”
Anthony Petrella closed out the game with an empty net goal with 33.7 seconds remaining.
Victory Honda played phenomenally at nationals, finishing 4-2 after earning an at-large bid to the tournament. Shattuck-St. Mary’s didn’t have much breathing room as the Victory Honda players were pesky.
“All the teams this late in the year are,” Norman said. “You’re going to get everyone’s best game, especially playing against us because everyone wants to beat us.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.