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.