WAYNE, N.J. -- Tanner McClure scored the first goal of Monday’s Class 2A final in the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships at the Ice Vault.
As they did throughout their championship run, the Maine Moose shared the scoring responsibilities throughout the game, but it was McClure who came through again with what may have been the biggest goal.
McClure’s second goal helped the Moose pull away for a 7-4 victory over the Armstrong (Pennsylvania) Arrows.
“We knew the next one would be really important,” McClure said of the stretch late in the second period when the Moose had been dominating but led narrowly, 3-1.
McClure was just getting off the bench and climbing over the boards when Gavin Bates began a rush to the net. When Bates tried to carry the puck around behind the net, it squirted loose, through the crease and into the path of the onrushing McClure.
“It happened to be a little bit of luck,” McClure said. “I just got off the bench and went straight to the net and it happened to come right to me.”
After Maine scored just once in the first period, despite a 24-5 shot advantage, McClure’s goal with 1:59 left in the second period finally broke the Arrows.
The Moose scored three times in the first half of the third period to open the lead to 7-1.
Maine got points from a dozen players and multiple points from half of them in the championship game win.
Defenseman Nicholas Bisson had three assists. Joseph Bisson, Marc Thibodeau and Joshua Malone each had a goal and an assist. Cody Dyson had two assists.
The production was indicative of how the Moose got through the six-game tournament unbeaten.
“We got contributions from everybody,” McClure said. “It’s really nice not to have to rely on any one person.”
McClure led with six goals and nine points. Linemate Jeremy Rancourt and Joseph Bisson were one behind in each with five goals and eight points. Marc Thibodeau also had eight points.
The first goal of the final did not come until 1:18 was left in the first period.
Nicholas Bisson took a shot from the point and it bounced off a body in front. McClure did the rest.
“I try to get some net-front presence,” McClure said. “I’d been trying to do that all tournament. I was tied up and I just took a whack at it and it happened to go in.
“It helped our team. That felt good.”
The goal got the Moose started toward the championship they came to New Jersey well aware was within their grasp. The bulk of the team has been together through three nationals trips, making it to 14U two years ago and learning they could be a contender, then sticking together as an under-aged 16U team last year to get ready for the third shot.
“They went as all ‘98s in the ’99 tournament, but now this year we’re all ‘99s with the exception of one 2000,” said Benjamin Gray, who coached each team through nationals. “The first year was a good eye-opener for us to see what was out there competition-wise throughout the country.
“We got the nerves out of us as far as the first time going as a team. Last year, we knew were going to be the youngest team there. We knew we were in a tough spot.”
The Moose came back hungry for the 2015-16 season. They were perfect while winning a title in the Maine Amateur Hockey Association, and took on the challenge of Tier I opposition in non-league play in their 50-game schedule. And, when their high school seasons called them away and made for gaps in the game schedule, they still found time to practice as a team.
“This year, the goal from the get-go was not only to get to nationals, but to be there at the very end,” Gray said. “We were just gearing up and getting ready.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.