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Spotless Execution on 2-on-1 Lifts Oakland in Overtime

By Tom Robinson - Special to, 04/07/16, 11:15AM MDT


The two Tier II 16U Class 3A unbeatens kept a hectic pace throughout the final

Final/OT 1 2 3 OT1 T
Chesterfield Falcons (MO) 1 0 0 0 1
Oakland Jr Grizzlies (MI) 1 0 0 1 2
/ Ice Vault Arena / IVA 2

WAYNE, N.J. – As Jacob Helzer rushed up ice carrying the puck, he was careful not to hurry any decisions.

Sprung free on the left side for a 2-on-1 in overtime, Helzer moved toward the goal. His decision on what to do next could wait.

“You can’t just get blinders on and focus on shooting or focus on passing,” Oakland (Mich.) Junior Grizzlies coach Jason Selleke said. “That’s the way we teach it.”

Helzer’s patience forced the Chesterfield (Mo.) Falcons defenseman to commit first and allowed Helzer to slide a pass across to defenseman Michael Ellis, who scored the game-winning goal exactly 10 minutes into overtime, lifting the Grizzlies to a 2-1 victory in the Class 3A title game of the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships at the Ice Vault.

“I was just looking at the defenseman and playing off him,” Helzer said. “If he was taking [Ellis], I was going to shoot; but if not, I would pass it over.

“He took away my shot, so I slid it over. I just went with the flow. That’s what he gave me.”

When the Grizzlies got the puck out of their zone and up to Helzer, Ellis saw the opening and jumped at the opportunity.

“A couple of their forwards stayed up, so I knew I had a cushion,” Ellis said. “I saw Helzer coming up with the puck and nobody was watching backdoor, so I just went there for a one-timer.”

Ellis had plenty of net to work with and roofed the shot to the short side.

“The kid made a great pass,” Selleke said. “The other boy, Mike Ellis: no mistakes. He finished it.

“It was an exciting moment.”

It was one of many.

Grizzlies goalie Brendan Gilhooley stopped a breakaway in the final minute to preserve the regulation tie, then the teams went at it in overtime, combining for 17 shots in 10 minutes.

“These are the best two teams in the nation, and that’s what you’re going to expect out of this game, especially in a high-pressure game, such as the national championship,” said Gilhooley, who was in goal when the Grizzlies fell in the national 12U quarterfinals in 2012.

Selleke said that was the way he wanted his team to play in overtime. After the teams matched 30 shots each in regulation, the Grizzlies had a 10-7 edge in extra time.

“We went in with the mindset of, ‘Let’s try to win it. Let’s not sit back and try to not lose it,’ ” Selleke said. “I think they did too. They were going forward. Both teams’ D were jumping into plays, which is why you were getting the odd-man rushes, because you have such active D on both teams.”

Both teams came into the final with 5-0 records, having gone 3-0 in pool play, then adding quarterfinal and semifinal wins Sunday when they played twice.

Despite their attacking styles, each team also had enough skill in goal and on defense to keep the other to one score for more than 60 minutes.

Trevor LaBash’s breakaway put Oakland in front, but Eric Brown answered on an assist from Owen Benben.

“It was two evenly matched teams,” Selleke said. “They have a great team and kind of played a similar style. They played hard right from the get-go, and we played hard. It’s a long tournament.”

Not much separated the two teams.

“It’s a game of bounces,” Selleke said. “It was a dead-even game. Our goalie played great, kept giving us a chance. We had our chances, too.

“You need bounces, you need some luck and, in the end, we made a great play to win it.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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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.