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Opponents Become Teammates in Pursuit of a National Title

By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com, 04/07/16, 10:15AM MDT

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Team Wyoming finds winning combination

Final 1 2 3 T
Oklahoma City Oil Kings (OK) 0 2 0 2
Team Wyoming (WY) 2 2 0 4
/ Ice Vault Arena / IVA 2
Summary

WAYNE, N.J. -- The Team Wyoming players see each other more often as opponents during the season in the Wyoming Amateur Hockey Association.

As they got together once a month throughout the course of the season, they developed into what became a championship team at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II 16U Class 1A National Championships.

Team Wyoming jumped in front early and used a clutch short-handed, breakaway goal from Ryan Welch late in the second period Monday to take the 1A championship from the Oklahoma City Oil Kings, 4-2, at the Ice Vault.

“We play four-five tournaments a year together, about one a month,” Team Wyoming head coach Matthew Sauter said. “At the beginning of the season, we had three or four practice weekends and that’s about it.

“These kids beat each other up the rest of the season.”

One game into his fourth trip as a Team Wyoming coach — two at 14U, two at 16U — Sauter was still winless at nationals.

In his team’s last competition together prior to nationals, in Colorado Springs on Presidents’ Day Weekend, Sauter developed the sense that this year could be different.

“We were 0-3 every year, but last year we were competitive and lost one-goal games,” Sauter said. “The first year, we got blown out; the second year was better.

“This was the first time we ever won a game at nationals.”

Mixing players from his previous teams, with graduates from the 14U team that won a pair of games at nationals last season, Sauter saw camaraderie develop in a situation where it is not always easy.

“A bunch of kids grew to love each other and like each other and trust each other,” Sauter said. “Our motto is about poise and control and keeping your cool, then play and have fun and smile.”

There was a lot to smile about in Monday morning’s final.

Four different players scored goals and James Doyle had two assists as Team Wyoming built a two-game lead three times.

Parker Delong got the scoring started 4:26 into the game when he got off a quick shot from a tough angle along the boards on the left wing on a seemingly harmless play.

“Because we don’t play together all year long, we’re not a pretty team,” Sauter said. “It’s about Wyoming hockey — put the puck to the net, play hard, try to make something happen and hope for the best.

“You can’t score unless you shoot.”

Hunter Peterson, who had 11 of the team’s 19 national tournament goals coming into the final, made it 2-0 with 37 seconds left in the first period on the first of Doyle’s assists.

“He shot it from the blue line and I tipped it,” said Peterson, who was skating by to the goalie’s left. “I didn’t even know it was in the net.”

Oklahoma City cut the lead to a single goal twice in the second period, but Team Wyoming responded each time.

Noah Rakosky broke through for the Oil Kings 25 seconds into the second. Parker Hamann scored for Team Wyoming just after the midway point in the game for a 3-1 lead.

Brig Neuhold scored to cut the deficit to 3-2 and Oklahoma City went on a power play 46 seconds later looking to use the momentum to force a tie.

Instead, two regular-season teammates from Jackson Hole connected to produce the game-breaking, short-handed goal.

Harrison Sauter, the coach’s son, gained possession on the right side in his defensive zone and Welch took off up the left side. Sauter flipped a long pass that Welch chased down for the short-handed, breakaway goal that closed the scoring.

“That is two kids that do play on the same high school team,” coach Sauter said. “They know each other very, very well.

“That was absolutely planned.”

Team Wyoming protected the lead well until some anxious moments after the Oil Kings pulled their goalie with 1:07 left.

Oklahoma City kept the puck in deep for 33 seconds and drew a double minor penalty, setting up a 6-on-4.

Nils Huot made seven of his 22 saves in the final 1:07, turning away a pair of particularly dangerous rebound attempts to get the win in goal.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.


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2017 USA Hockey Nationals: Champions Crowned

By USA Hockey 04/11/2017, 11:30am MDT

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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Two months from now, the St. Louis Blues hope to experience the thrill of winning the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time. 

What happened Sunday for the Chesterfield Falcons is the equivalent of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for an 18-year-old. Bringing another youth hockey championship to this St. Louis suburb never gets old.

The Falcons scored a late third-period goal to widen its advantage and beat the Florida Junior Panthers 3-1 in the USA Hockey Tier IIAA 18-and-Under National Championships title game at Suburban Ice Arena. The game was one of three championship matches played here on Sunday as part of the Tier II 18U championships.

It was the third time in five years that Chesterfield, which is the top-ranked 18U program in the country regardless of class or conference, won a national championship at the 18U level. All of the titles have happened in even-numbered years (2008, 2010 and this year).

[y tii 18 2a champs] “This team is typically about 90 percent new every year, maybe with four or five returning players,” Chesterfield coach Lindsay Middlebrook said. “It takes a little pressure off of having to repeat given we seem to win it every other year.”

All kidding aside, Middlebrook said the secret to the team has been how well the team has come together.

“We’ve been in one of the best Double-A hockey leagues now [Central States] for five or six years, and this year we had a really good team,” he said.

Chesterfield shut out the West Haven (Conn.) Blue Devils 6-0 in the first game before losing 2-1 to Florida in the second game of pool play. The Falcons then beat the Tri-Cities (Wash.) Junior Americans 6-1 in the final pool game before blasting the Mission (Ariz.) Ice 9-2 in the quarterfinals and edging the Richmond (Mo.) Royals 4-3 in the semifinals. 

It was that loss to Florida that stuck with Nicholas Fontana. He thought about that loss as he notched the late third-period goal, off a pass from Jacob Kaufman and Nicolas Brocksmith. The shot just eluded the stick of Florida goalie Austin Luboff.

“Earlier in the year we beat Florida in two games but we lost to them here,” Fontana said. “We knew coming in that they’d play us hard, and we knew we had a big bench and could go deeper into the lineup than they could. We ended up shutting them down.”

The shot was in a perfect position for Fontana. 

“I was on a long shift, and I was forechecking and I saw the puck come around the boards and I thought I’d dump it off to a teammate,” Fontana said. “Then I was already down there so I figured I might as well take the shot. We’ve talked about getting in front of the net and screening the goalie so we could get a shot, and I just had the chance.”

Florida started with a 2-1 overtime win over the South Central (Alaska) Wolves, beat Chesterfield and the Pro Ambitions Nashua (N.H.) Panther Elites 3-1 in the next pool games, and then topped Team Michiana 4-2 in quarterfinal action. In the final four Florida needed overtime for a 3-2 win over the Metro Maple Leafs. 

The majority of the Florida team has not been together for years. That said, Florida coach Dana Bengston said the players did a good job of meshing together in a short time. 

“As a team we got an at-large bid and we were invited to the tournament because of what we had done during the regular season,” Bengston said. “To come here as an invite to the tournament and make it to the finals… against the number one team in the country… we managed to beat the top team in round robin and it was a close game. For our kids to compete and beat them once shows a lot for the character of this team.

“These are kids who have chosen to stay in Florida and are involved in other things yet still want to play some hockey.”

Florida lost to the Junior Everblades in the state finals. The Everblades were eliminated in pool play and did not reach the quarterfinals.

Prior to Fontana’s late goal, Florida took a 1-0 lead with 5:39 to go in the first period on a Freddy Kasten power-play goal, with the assist provided by Bryan Kubota.

Chesterfield tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by Mark Jones, with assists by Wilder Politte and Jacob Kaufman, with 2:17 to go in the second period. 
The score stayed tied until the third period. With 8:17 remaining Daniel Warnecke scored off assists by Nicholas Walters and Callahan Heimos, and Fontana tacked on the insurance marker. 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Shutdown D Leads Thunderblades to 14U A Title

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