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.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As the 2007 USA Hockey 14 & Under National Championship tournament unfolded this week, Kendall Coyne's name became a familiar one for Team Illinois.
Not even having seven second-period penalties could slow down the Central District champions or their top player at the event.
Coyne’s power play goal just seconds into the second period proved to be all the offense Team Illinois would need, en route to a 4-0 victory against Honeybaked to claim USA Hockey's National Championship at Logitech Ice Center.
Shortly after Coyne’s goal, though, Team Illinois seemed to be holding a team meeting in its own penalty box. Illinois had to overcome two separate five-on-three advantages by Honeybaked, the Michigan District champions, who struggled against Illinois’ swarming defense all game, even when playing with a numbers advantage.
“We’ve struggled with penalties throughout the entire tournament,” Illinois coach Emily Pemrick said.
Still, the Illinois defense refused to buckle under the constant pressure. It helped that goaltender Stephanie Lemke was brilliant in net, turning away shot after shot whenever Honeybaked managed to slip past the Illinois defense.
“She’s phenomenal,” Pemrick said of her net minder. “Nothing seems to faze her.”
Lemke’s work between the pipes notwithstanding, Illinois teetered on the brink of misfortune throughout most of the second period.
“This team really knows how to fight through adversity,” Pemrick said. “This is a very hardworking team.”
Adversity surrounded the Illinois team from the very start of the season, added Pemrick.
“The first tournament we played, we lost just about every game,” Pemrick recalled.
By November, though, the team had rebounded and went on a late-season drive to qualify for Nationals.
“We finally all got on the same page and got it together,” Pemrick said.
Illinois swept its way through the round robin by a combined 16-2 score before brushing aside Montgomery, 5-1, in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Illinois turned away Syracuse, 4-2, in Saturday evening’s semifinals to advance to the title game.
Honeybaked’s unlikely journey to the tournament title game began with back-to-back losses to Assabet Valley and Syracuse, before a 4-0 win against San Jose advanced the team into Saturday’s quarterfinals. Honeybaked downed Connecticut, 3-0, in the quarterfinals before defeating Assabet Valley, 2-1, in the semifinals.
In the finale, Illinois dominated the action in the opening period against Honeybaked, failing to convert on its own five-on-three advantage when two Honeybaked players were called for simultaneous penalties early in the period.
After escaping the second period with its one-goal lead intact, Illinois finally went back on the offensive and attacked the Honeybaked net.
Jocelyn Simpson scored another power play goal for Illinois at the 2:39 mark for a 2-0 advantage --Simpson’s ninth goal of the tournament, which at that point tied her with Coyne for the overall tournament lead.
Coyne would regain her lead with an empty-net goal with just 37 seconds remaining before picking up her third point of the game by assisting on Carolyn Fuwa’s goal with 10 seconds left to seal the victory for Illinois.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.