SALT LAKE CITY -- After his post-game interview, Portland Hawks forward Sammy Willman grinned as he went back to his locker room.
“I’m famous!” he said.
Yeah, that’s what happens when you score the game-winning goal in sudden death overtime of the national championships.
Willman tallied the clincher with 1:27 remaining in the extra session to push Portland (Ore.) to a 3-2 victory against the Junior Steelheads (Idaho) in the Class A title game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships on Monday.
“This is definitely one of the best moments of my life,” Willman said. “Hockey, it’s great. This is an unreal feeling.”
The two teams had played through most of the first overtime period when Willman took matters into his own hands.
“They had a 2-1 lead, and then after [tying the game] it was us in their zone the whole time,” said Willman, who led Class A with 11 goals and 14 points in five games. “We were just pounding it. I got some space, drove it wide, went hard at the goal and poked it in.”
That set off a wild celebration on the Hawks end of the ice.
“We were consistently putting pressure on them from the drop of the puck in overtime,” Portland coach Scott Brown said. “That’s what we wanted. They were crowding us out. If we weren’t moving the puck in the offensive zone, they were all over us. They were really good defensively, and their goaltender was awesome. But I thought we had a little bit better speed and we used that to our advantage.”
Good work by both goalies kept the game scoreless in the first period. The Junior Steelheads broke into the scoring column first with 11:04 to play in the second. A pair of penalties put Portland down two players, and John Driscoll scored on a deflection for a 1-0 Steelheads lead. Moments later, Portland knotted things up with a goal by Jon Koltvedt, who took a sweet pass from Kai Conti in front of the net.
The Steelheads effectively killed a Portland power play late in the second, and a great save by Portland goalie Cameron Birchall on a one-on-one opportunity kept the score tied at 1-all at the intermission.
The Steelheads jumped on top 2-1 in the third when Driscoll scored his second goal of the game by stealing a pass at center ice, then racing in and backhanding a shot into the net at the 11:40 mark.
Portland managed to tie the game at 2-all with 8:52 remaining with Walker Reiersgaard following up a Willman shot with a goal.
Portland put a lot of pressure on the Steelheads in the final eight minutes of regulation but couldn’t light the lamp. The pressure, though, continued in the overtime period, and that ultimately led to Willman’s game-winning goal.
“I really thought we had momentum because we had that second goal to tie it up,” Brown said. “We were really in their offensive zone a lot. And that last goal, Sammy just grabbed the puck. He’s crafty with it and he used his speed. He got around the defense and beat the goalie. It was a great individual effort by him, along with a good team effort in the overtime.”
The Portland squad doesn’t play in a league, but playing in tournaments helped the Hawks finish things in a tight matchup.
“We’re used to it because we’ve had a lot of close games,” Willman said. “We had a big tournament in Phoenix, and we lost it in overtime. We didn’t want that feeling again, so we skated as hard as we could. Losing just wasn’t an option. We just played with passion and that was the hardest we’ve ever played.”
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.