GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was a game that seemed like it could go on forever.
So it was only a fitting a local product ended the longest and last contest of the 2014 Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Youth National Championships.
Green Bay native Tony Stillwell scored with just 3:36 remaining in the fourth overtime of the 16-and-Under national championship game to give the hosts from Team Wisconsin a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Thunderbirds on Sunday at the Cornerstone Ice Center.
“Just the best game of my life,” said Stillwell, who is a junior at Green Bay Notre Dame Academy, which plays its home games at Cornerstone.
The goalies on both teams played out of their minds, but Stillwell was able to solve Thunderbirds goaltender Kristofer Carlson.
Holding the puck in Wisconsin’s zone, Stillwell skated from the point and worked his magic.
“I took it outside around a guy, back to the inside and just ripped it on net,” said Stillwell, who has verbally committed to play hockey at the University of Wisconsin. “I saw it in the back of the net and I just went down towards [our] goalie and everyone was on top of me. It was just a crazy feeling.”
The shot weaved through traffic in front of the net and came in clean on Carlson — who had 29 saves — beating him on the short side.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Wisconsin goalie Henry Cutting said. “I saw Stillwell coming down the ice on his knees and I was like, ‘Wow. This is amazing.’”
Stillwell’s shot was certainly the most memorable moment of the day. However, it was Cutting’s stellar prowess between the pipes that kept Team Wisconsin — which won its first 16U national title — playing into the fourth overtime.
“I really think he won the game for us, at least two or three times diving across the net and saving pucks, odd-man rushes,” Stillwell said about Cutting. “He was just a brick wall.”
Cutting stopped 33 of 34 shots he faced, but nothing was bigger than his play in the third overtime. With 2:32 left, there was a scrum just to the right of Cutting and Thunderbirds forward Zachary Taylor was camped on the doorstep all alone. The puck squirted over to Taylor, who tried to elevate it, but Cutting made a beautiful glove save.
“I saw a lot of net, let’s put it that way,” Wisconsin coach Luke Strand said. “Cuts is a very competitive young man that finds a way.”
Just two minutes later, Cutting also stoned Zachary Goberis in front to send the game into the fourth overtime.
After already playing 81 minutes heading into the fourth extra session, it was starting to become tough for the players to keep their focus and composure.
“The national title, the adrenaline, that all just kept me in the game,” Cutting said. “I was just in a zone, and I knew I wasn’t going to get scored on.”
Even though his players were exhausted, coach Strand wasn’t worried about his guys wearing down physically.
“For us, the tired time became a mental problem,” Strand said. “We turned over a lot of pucks for a while there. I thought we kept our legs, but we lost our minds. They found a way to regroup.”
The game was scoreless until the second period when Wisconsin’s Kevin Conley scored on a pass from Stillwell at the 10:42 mark. Colorado quickly tied it three minutes later on a goal by Maxwell Gerlach.
Wisconsin and Colorado didn’t face each other during the regular season, but they played on the opening day of the national tournament during pool play with Wisconsin earning a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t quite the epic battle like the championship game.
“It was two teams fighting it out to the end,” Thunderbirds coach Angelo Ricci said. “In a game like this there’s no loser, but there is. You hate to come up on the short side.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
FRASER, Mich. -- Two second-period goals were all the scoring Belle Tire of Detroit, Mich., would need to defeat Shattuck-St. Mary's of Minnesota, 2-1, Sunday in USA Hockey's Tier I 16 & Under National Championship game.
Jordan Miller and Tyler Brown scored goals for Belle Tire, the host team, in the one-goal victory at Great Lakes Sports City. Goalie Joe Rogers made 22 saves in the winning effort.
"It's incredible. I can't really explain it," Rogers said after the win. "We maintained our defensive zone today. Our defense did a good job of clearing out our zone. That helped me see the shots."
Shattuck-St. Mary's goaltender Kevin Murdock made 17 saves, and his teammates finished with a 23-19 shots advantage.
"At this time, it's hard to be satisfied, but I'm proud of our kids," said Shattuck-St. Mary's head coach Rod Collins said afterward. "We made it to the finals and my kids gave everything. I couldn't have asked for more."
Belle Tire ended the weekend at 6-0 and completed their season with a 61-7-6 record in 2006-07.
Trailing, 1-0, after the first period, Belle Tire struck for two goals within 1:35 to take a 2-1 advantage in the second period. Jordan Miller scored the first goal when Murdock wasn't able to cover a loose puck, and Zach Golembiewski and Beau Schmitz picked up assists on the goal.
The next goal, with 3:09 to play, came on a shot by Tyler Brown, who was assisted by Mac Olson.
Shattuck-St. Mary's scored the only goal in the first period when Jack Nicoll scored with six minutes left, assisted by Brad Roggins and Salvatore Alfieri.
"We made an adjustment," said Belle Tire coach Kyle Krug. "They were coming out of the middle of the ice too easily at us. We went to a 1-2-2 forecheck and that helped us. After that first goal, we got some good momentum. I told the guys if we score, then we could get another one. That's what happened."
"I knew what I had to do to hold [Shattuck-St. Mary's]," Rogers said. "That's a good team. I knew it would be a tough game."
Collins, too, was ready to compliment the opponent.
"Belle Tire is a very good hockey team," Collins said. "We couldn't penetrate their defense. Belle Tire had a home-ice advantage, but it was the same sized surface for both teams," Collins said. "They were very strong defensively. In the third period, we had chances. But we couldn't convert. That happens."
Krug praised his goalie.
"We rode him here to Nationals," said Krug, who had been with a Honeybaked team that won a USA Hockey National Championship in 2003. "His focus and determination are second to none."
Rogers, for his part, was happy he didn't have to travel too far for Nationals.
On having the title game on Belle Tire's home rink, said Rogers, "It was great to have it here. We've done well here all year, and we get great support from our friends and family from the area."
"Being in our own locker room and having a skate sharpener here, it's just nice to be at home," Krug said.
"We thought this team had a good chance as we came into the season," continued Krug. "Especially when we added four [1990-born players] to the team," he said. "Coming out of our league, the Midwest Elite Hockey League, which I think is the best in the country, we did well enough to give me confidence that this team could do well."
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.