TROY, Mich. -- Talk about adversity: The Portland Jr. Pirates certainly had their share during the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships. Yet through it all — and in dramatic style — they beat the Charlotte Checkers 3-2 in overtime to claim the Class A national title Monday at the Troy Sports Center in Michigan.
To begin with, at the start of the nationals, the team was shocked to find out that it had a new head coach, with Jeff Tory taking over for Alfie Michaud.
If that wasn’t enough to shake them up, the Pirates fell behind 2-0 to the Checkers in the championship game before starting a comeback rally — scoring the tying goal with just 13 seconds left in regulation and then winning the national title in overtime.
“Obviously it was a little different, taking over the team as the new head coach at maybe an inappropriate time,” said Tory, laughing after the game. “I knew some of these guys and coached them as an assistant coach at another level of the organization. So it really was not a huge change as everyone might think.”
Still a new head coach with different ideas could be enough to throw them from their focus and their game. Tory made efforts to avoid any turmoil.
“I did not make a lot of changes, built on what we have been doing all year long,” he said. “A couple minor things here and there, based on what the other team was doing.”
Portland went 3-0 during the round robin and seemed to be getting stronger as the tournament went on. The Pirates had no trouble in their quarterfinal win, putting a hurt on the Atlanta Phoenix 9-2, and continued to roll in the semifinals as they blanked the TVHA (Idaho) Hawks 7-0.
Tory felt the off-ice program the Pirates used during the year was a big factor in their success.
“We seemed to get stronger as the games went on,” Tory said. “Our off-ice program made us stronger and prepared us to endure a long hockey season and the fact that we continued to roll four lines, gave everybody on our team enough rest and avoiding fatigue.”
Chase Wright got the Checkers off to a good start, scoring an unassisted goal at 8:24 of the first period.
The game remained 1-0 until the third period, when Ben Crotty put Charlotte up 2-0 early on, with Shane Clapper assisting. It looked like a strong enough lead with goaltender Tanner Bain stopping 17 shots through the first two periods.
But Portland had other ideas and managed to break the goose egg. Matthew Brooks got the first of his two goals at the 6:12 mark. Patrick Daniels drew the first of two assists, along with Carsten Kocek.
With 17 seconds to play, the Checkers were called for a tripping minor penalty, and just five seconds later, Kyle Woodruff scored the equalizer on the power play, with Daniels and Jordan Tracy getting the assists.
Brooks won it at the 12:53 mark.
“I used my speed to beat their d-man, which set up a 2-on-1 break,” Brooks explained to the throng of reporters around him. “I just sent a hard wrist shot and it hit the top right hand corner of the net.”
From there it was jubilation as the Pirates stormed off the bench to swarm Brooks in celebration.
After the hugging had ended and the medals were handed out, Tory praised Charlotte.
“They played a real hard game,” he said. “They were very tough and jammed us up. They should be very proud of the game they played and we are just fortunate to have won the game.”
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.