INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- Last year, the Seattle SnoKing Junior Thunderbirds came close to their first national title.
This year, the Junior Thunderbirds will bring the big prize back home to Washington.
The Junior Thunderbirds shut out the Wonderland (Connecticut) Wizards 9-0 to win their first-ever 2A title at the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships.
More than half of this year’s team played on the Junior Thunderbirds team that finished third in last year’s nationals, something that stuck with the returnees, according to head coach Lloyd Shaw.
“We had 10 kids last year on that team that came back to play this year,” Shaw said. “Last year, we didn’t expect to make it out of the round robin, having all those first-year kids. We were just happy to be there.
“But our goal [this year] was to come here and win. We knew what it was like from last year, and we knew the caliber of hockey to expect. That was the goal — the kids wanted to win.”
And win they did, in dominating fashion.
The Junior Thunderbirds controlled both ends at the Extreme Ice Center’s main rink, taking a 4-0 lead at the end of the first period while recording their third shutout of nationals.
By the time the final horn sounded, seven different players had scored goals for the Junior Thunderbirds, and seven had assists as they improved their tournament scoring mark to 46 total goals in six games.
“We just work together as a team,” said forward Eric Prigodich, who had two goals for the Junior Thunderbirds on Monday. “We stuck to our game plan, and did everything we could.
“Everything we did this year was to come here and do better than last year, and get the gold. For a lot of the guys, this is our last year [at 14U], so we wanted to make it our best.”
Forward Matthew Butson also had two goals for the Junior Thunderbirds, with five other players — forwards Miles Seguin, Alonza Colburn, Cole Dubicki and J.T. Rimorin, and defenseman Nico DeVita — scoring one goal each.
Defenseman Landen Shaw had three assists, forwards Tom Yang and Rafael Osuna had two assists apiece, and Seguin, Dubicki, Rimorin and defenseman Dexter Conley each added an assist.
“The kids buy into a system, and we don’t play a fancy game,” Shaw said. “All of our goals were scored when the kids were working the puck down low, working their defensemen down low and taking it to the net.
“We haven’t had one kid dominate a game and be that consistent scorer — it’s spread out amongst all the kids. That’s kinda nice, because I can throw any of our forwards on the ice at any time, and they all play the same.”
The only real chance the Wizards had at scoring came on their power play opportunities — four in all. But the Junior Thunderbirds killed all four chances by keeping the puck on the Wizards’ end of the rink.
“Their gap control is amazing — our forwards couldn’t do anything,” Wizards head coach Carl Larouche said. “They had a stick on the puck at all times, they were playing the body very well and moved us to the outside. Our guys just couldn’t do anything except dump the puck and chase it, and hope they got a lucky break.
“In watching them, I knew it was going to be a tough, physical game. They were just too strong for us. We were trying to keep the game close, but the fact they scored right away, it changed the game a little bit.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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.