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Oakland Jr. Grizzlies Take Michigan, Then National Title

By Darnell Dickson - Special to, 03/31/15, 4:00PM MDT


Jr. Grizzlies beat the Steel City Ice Renegades to win the 14AAA national championship.

Final 1 2 3 T
Oakland Grizzlies (MI#1) 2 2 0 4
Steel City Ice Renegades (WPA) 1 0 0 1
/ Utah Olympic Legacy / Oval South

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Oakland (Mich.) Jr. Grizzlies know how to celebrate.

Especially forward Chris Gilbert.

At the conclusion of Monday’s 4-1 victory against the Steel City (Penn.) Ice Renegades, Gilbert fell on the ice to make snow angels, then later sped around the rink and stopped short right in front of an assistant coach, showering him with ice.

“He’s a piece of work, that’s for sure,” Grizzlies coach Jason Selleke said.

Gilbert scored two goals as the Grizzlies dominated Steel City in the AAA championship game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships on Monday at the Olympic Oval.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Gilbert said. “I’m proud of all these boys. We worked hard all year. Our goal from the beginning of the year, back when we started, was state champions and national champions. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The Grizzlies had three strong offensive attacks early in the game and finally scored at the 6:10 mark of the first period. Gilbert’s pass connected with an open Colton Markiewicz on the right wing, and Markiewicz found the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

Steel City evened things up less than a minute later. Cameron Wycich controlled a loose puck and bounced it past the Grizzlies goalie, and the score was tied at 1-all with 5:27 to play in the first period.

From that point on, Oakland dominated by relentlessly attacking the Steel City scoring zone.

“We came out with a quick start,” Selleke said. “We threw pucks to the net, and that’s our thing. We have a really strong forecheck, so we come hard. We’ve got three-and-a half lines that we keep rolling and everybody works. Everybody’s a good hockey player, and there’s not a weaknesses throughout the team.”

A hooking penalty on Steel City gave the Grizzlies a power play opportunity, and it took just two minutes for them to strike. Julian Graziani demonstrated some serious stick moves and flicked a wrister into the net for a score and a 2-1 Oakland lead with 3:35 to play in the first.

The second period was dominated by Oakland, which outshot Steel City 19-1. Gilbert scored both goals in the period. The first was a quick stick on a deflection from a shot that bounced off the Steel City goalie’s pads at the 12:31 mark for a 3-1 lead. Gilbert struck again with 5:01 to play in the second, beating two defenders and crashing into a third while backhanding a shot into the net.

“We just played our system,” Gilbert said. “We kept it high because they were flying a guy at us. We intercepted pucks and we took shots. We just battled it out. We played well on our own end, and our two goalies played great.”

The third period went scoreless and Oakland smothered Steel City’s only real scoring threat, killing a penalty effectively early on.

“We had a goal in mind all year,” Selleke said. “We won state this year, and we had a target on our back, in Michigan especially. We played a pretty tough schedule coming out here, and to get out of Michigan was just a blessing. The boys wanted it. They’re a tight group of kids. They’ve been together a couple of years now. They’re just a bunch of good, coachable kids. They all had a common goal and they showed up today, for sure.”

Gilbert said the competitive state competition in Michigan helped the Grizzlies prepare well for nationals.

“It was a hard fight against our two rivals,” Gilbert said. “We won in overtime against Rochester in districts, and we had a close win in the semis against Birmingham. Every team that makes nationals is good. Every state champion is good. We were one of the lucky teams to come to nationals, but it wasn’t easy.

“We didn’t walk through everybody, we had to go through them.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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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.

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