SALT LAKE CITY -- Down a goal with just five minutes to go, no one on the Scorpions bench doubted they would find a way to win.
The Scorpions (Fla.) scored two goals in the final 4:06 to claim a 5-4 victory against the Chesterfield (Mo.) Falcons in the Class AA title game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships at the Olympic Oval on Monday.
“We always say our boys never quit,” said Scorpions coach Vaclav “Vinny” Prospal, a former NHL standout. “We play hard and the game lasts 48 minutes in here. I thought the entire bench had the belief that the game’s not lost and we can always come back.”
The game was tied at 3-3 entering the final period, and Chesterfield surged into the lead on a power play goal from Joe Winkelmann, who led Class AA with eight goals and 16 points. Winkelmann brought a loose puck down with his hand, skated into the crease and lit the lamp for a 4-3 advantage with 12:53 remaining. Chesterfield goalie Brendan Rasch smothered a couple of Scorpions shots and, as the clock ticked down, the Falcons could sense the championship within their grasp.
But the Scorpions weren’t done yet.
“I think we were just battling in the corners,” Scorpions forward Joey Baez said. “Once we got that done, we started putting the pucks in the net.”
The Scorpions stayed on the attack, and Jacob Schnapp tied the game at 4-4 with a shot from the right wing to the top shelf with 4:06 to play.
“Even when we tied the game, we didn’t want to go to overtime,” Prospal said. “We knew we could win in regulation because in the coach’s eyes, we were well prepared and well-conditioned and on this big ice, that paid off in huge dividends for us towards the end of the game.”
Not quite two minutes later, Baez gathered in a loose puck around the crease for the Scorpions and scored, giving his team a 5-4 lead with 2:08 remaining.
The Scorpions handled their business defensively and celebrated the championship.
“I just bounced it in,” said Baez, who had seven goals and 12 points in the tournament. “I put it down and put it in the net. Our preparation was pretty solid and we worked hard all season. I think that was the key.”
It was a physical game that kept the referees busy skating in to keep things from escalating. That led to a lot of scoring opportunities for both teams early. Chesterfield found the back of the net first, with Logan Oliver tapping in for the goal on the Falcons third attempt. It didn’t take long for the Scorpions to get the equalizer, with Josh Currow scoring on a power play with 6:45 to play in the first period. With just 36 seconds remaining, Nicholas Demiceli gave the Scorpions a 2-1 lead for the intermission.
Chesterfield knotted the score at 2-2 just two minutes into the second period, scoring on a nice pass from Terrance Puribhat into the crease to Beck Markarian. The Falcons grabbed a 3-2 lead at the 9:53 mark, taking advantage of a power play goal from Oliver. The Scorpions managed to tie the game at 3-all with just 11.8 seconds remaining before intermission. Chesterfield failed to clear the zone, and Baez pounded the puck into the net.
The third period was just a relentless effort by the Scorpions, who eventually wore down Chesterfield in the end.
“Our players grew in this tournament and that showed up at the end of the game,” Prospal said. “My assistant coach [Chris Reed] told me this, that this game pretty much sums up the season we had. Nothing comes easy, but maybe it’s much more enjoyable this way.”
The championship win brought to a close a dominant tournament for the Scorpions, who finished 6-0 and outscored their opponents 35-12.
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.