The way Pat Peake sees it, when his team stays out of the penalty box and is able to roll four lines, they're very tough to beat.
The head coach of Compuware got his wish, for the most part, on Monday as his team scored a pair of first-period goals and put the clamp down on a very good Shattuck-St. Mary's team in to clinch the USA Hockey Tier I 16 & Under National Championship with a 2-1 victory.
It was program's first national title at the 16 & Under level since they beat Team Comcast at the 2009 Nationals in Chesterfield, Mo.
It took only 45 seconds for Compuware to show why they were the top seed in the tournament as Arthur Kaliyev stickhandled through the Shattuck defense and beat Derek Mullahy on the short side.
It's been a heck of a week for the New York City born Kaliyev, who learned two days ago that he was drafted by the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
"It's been a great week for me personally but more importantly it's been a great week for our team," said Kaliyev, who was led the tournament with six goals.
"This is the best team I've ever played on. I've never won a national championship before so this is special."
Compuware added to its lead when Mason Perich's clearing attempt took a funny bounce off the end boards and came right out to Thomas Middleton, who deposited the miscue into the back of the net.
The good fortune didn't last long as a pair of penalties forced Peake to shorten his bench.
"We were rolling four lines and things were going great. We were out shooting them 9-0 and we were up 2-0," he said. "Then we got in a little bit of penalty trouble. That takes everybody out of their game a little bit because we have certain guys we kill with.
"But you know what, the resiliency of our group kind of came through."
That resiliency was tested when Shattuck cut the lead in half on set face off play that left Drew Helleson alone in front of the net and the Edina, Minn., native quickly put it home. It marked the first goal Compuware goaltender Chase Johnson gave up in the tournament.
"I would've liked to get the shutout tonight, but I'd rather get the gold," Johnson said. "I thought about [the goal] for about a second, tried to figure out what I did wrong, then put it away and move on so it doesn't happen again."
After blanking Sioux Falls, 7-0, Johnson watched Blake Pietila surrender five goals on 16 shots against the Central Connecticut Capitals Selects before coming on in relief to backstop a come-from-behind win to save their season. Johnson returned to the crease in the final game of the round-robin to blank the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, 4-0.
Still, the coaching staff had confidence to go back to Pietila in their semifinal matchup with Michigan rivals Honeybaked, and Pietila didn't disappoint by turning in a 18-save effort to shutout their Michigan rivals.
Blessed with two good goalies, Peake decided to stick with the rotation in the championship game and gave Johnson the nod.
"In all my years coaching I've never had two goaltenders where there hasn't been a consideration of who to start," Peake said.
"Looking back at our 70-plus games this year, we had to pull each goalie one time. Blake's happened to be this week. It was just 'shake it off' and the team picked them up and we went on and just continued the rotation. ... We knew that we couldn't make a wrong decision today."
Helleson's goal provided Shattuck with the wake up call they were looking for as they began to mount sustained pressure. But Compuware stuck to its game plan and managed to frustrate Shattuck down the stretch to protect their one-goal lead.
For Peake and his entire coaching staff, the week marked a fitting culmination to a storybook season that started with a group of players that few other teams wanted and wrapped up with players skating off the ice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Center with gold medals around their necks.
"This is my fourth Nationals as a coach and this one is probably the most rewarding because of this particular group," said Peake, who was joined behind the bench by fellow NHL alumni Chris Tamer and Rick Scero.
"It's a group of kids coming into the season that people thought were extra guys that nobody wanted, and they've all improved from the start of the season until now. The chemistry and camaraderie between these kids has been the key.
"For a coach to be able to have a group of 16-year-old kids who buy into something and care so much about each other is special. Everything just came together and we were able to get them to play their best hockey at the right time."
|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|