EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The Lansing Spartans may have sat on the visiting team bench for their first game of the USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships on Friday, but they are as close as they can be to home.
The Spartans, who are competing in Division 3A, typically practice at The Summit Sports and Ice Complex in East Lansing, Michigan, but on occasion will hold practices just minutes away at Suburban Ice.
Both rinks will be plenty busy this weekend hosting 32 teams across three divisions for nationals.
With teams participating from across the country, travel for family and friends may be difficult. As a result, the bleachers at Suburban Ice remained relatively empty to begin the day Friday, but that all changed in the late afternoon.
The Spartans were slated to face the Clarence Mustangs, which sent friends, family and fans flocking to the arena to watch the game and support their local team.
The bleachers filled up, the crowd was energetic and fans surrounded the glass trying to catch a glimpse of the game.
Despite the large fan contingent, the Spartans fell 7-1 to the Mustangs, but co-head coach Brandon Reed said this team will bounce back.
“The nice thing about youth hockey or sports in general is if you don’t play good today, there’s always tomorrow, so we’ve talked to the boys,” Reed said. “Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted — that’s pretty obvious — but I think we got character in the room and all season long, we bounce back.”
Defenseman Blake Berenson said that the opportunity to play a national championship so close to home brings a feeling of home ice advantage.
“It’s pretty special to have it here,” Berenson said. “I would just imagine before this game I would imagine winning the national championship here and imagining everyone going crazy and remembering this moment forever. But whatever arena it is, we have to show out.”
Berenson said that the closeness of the tournament allows for the ability to bring in numerous family and friends to support him and the Spartans.
“We definitely have the home crowd here, so that’s definitely beneficial there," forward Noah Pipper said.
The Spartans entered the National Junior Prospects (NJP) Championship in January with a 13-2 record.
After winning their first two games, the Spartans were scheduled to face off against the Pittsburgh Vengeance. They had previously played the Vengeance earlier in the season, but fell, 9-1.
The Spartans aimed to not fall victims to another blowout, but their efforts failed as they lost their first game of the championship tournament, 6-0.
A day later on Jan. 22, with a championship title on the line, the Spartans revenged their shutout loss as they defeated the Vengeance in overtime 5-4 to take home the NJP Championship and secure a berth in the national championships.
The Spartans’ victory in overtime was the first loss the Vengeance suffered this season as they entered the matchup with a perfect 14-0 record.
The Spartans added on to their memorable season by winning the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) 2017 Midget AA State Championship on March 19.
Through all the games and tournaments won, trophies earned and accolades collected, the Spartans can’t dwell too much on their remarkable season as they must focus on their current goal of winning nationals.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|Youth Tier I (14U)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (16U, 18U)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||April 6-10, 2017|
|Girls Tier I||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Women's A, B, C||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-9, 2017|
|High School||Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Suburban Hockey||March 30-April 3, 2017|
|Girls Tier II||Troy, Michigan||Troy Youth Hockey Association||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (14U)||Coral Springs, Florida||Florida Panthers Ice Den||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (16U)||Frisco, Texas||Texas Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (18U)||Lansing, Michigan||Lansing Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Sled||San Jose, California||Sharks Ice||April 6-9, 2017|
|Adult Rec Men's||Wesley Chapel, Florida||Florida Hospital Center Ice||April 20-23, 2017|
|Adult Rec Women's||Ellenton, Florida||Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex||April 27-30, 2017|