EAST LANSING, Mich. -- For Team Copper Country, Monday was a dream come true.
After not winning the state tournament, which comes with an auto-bid to the 2017 USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships, the Michigan-based team from the Upper Peninsula was still given the opportunity to participate in the national tournament.
They proved their worth as four unanswered goals by Team Copper Country gave them a 5-2 victory over the Clarence Mustangs.
“It’s so awesome because, for one, it’s our third with the program and when Coach Stipech got the program started, this was his goal,” head coach Ryan Deforge said. “And from a small town that we’re from of about 20,000 in a 15-mile radius, you’d think it’s not achievable, and then here we are three years later and we did it. And we didn’t win a state championship, so we were so fortunate that nationals were in Michigan and in Lansing and to get a chance for the kids to get a second chance to come and play. We were banged up at states — not to make excuses — but we just couldn’t get it done. We lost in the finals, but here we are national champions.”
The Mustangs had seven penalties for 30 minutes. Team Copper Country was able to capitalize on one of their man advantage attempts in the second period with a goal by Ted Randell.
Team Copper Country controlled shots on goal as they ended the game outshooting the Mustangs, 45-12.
“It’s been a long journey before the high school season and after it,” forward Rory Anderson said. “It’s fun with the boys and to get this national title was huge for our area and everywhere.”
Dissimilar to the first two national championship games, the Mustangs were able to put points on the board in the opening frame.
After the Mustangs, in their own zone, dumped the puck into opposing territory, Nathan Berke ran down the puck near the right circle and passed to Dominic Miceli.
Miceli secured the puck and took a shot attempt that got by Team Copper Country’s Dawson Kero to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game at 1-0.
Team Cooper Country struck back with 6:13 left in the first.
Jed Pietila picked up the puck in Cooper Country’s zone and skated along the left boards into Mustangs territory.
Skating in front of the net and facing two defenders, Pietila made a gentle backhand shot that was deflected by a Mustang defender and allowed Team Copper Country to tie the game.
The Mustangs’ Luke Pierce regained the lead 2:07 into the second.
Securing the puck in his own zone, Pierce skated down the ice to the opposing zone.
Pierce’s wrist shot near the high slot rifled by the right shoulder pad of Kero for the Mustangs’ second goal of the game.
Down 2-1, Team Copper Country scored four unanswered goals to take a 5-2 lead and ultimately win the national championship.
“Honestly, I think it was just all our offseason training and our coaches harping on, ‘Third period’s always got to be our best period,’ because that’s how you close a game out,” forward Brody Budweg said. “Whoever wins the third period, wins the game most of the time. So just throughout the summer at practices, they just harp on being a third period team and it translated to win us a national championship obviously, so that was awesome.
Coach Deforge said being able to close out the game in the third period was just a commodity of this weekend.
“It was awesome and that’s what we did all weekend, so if anyone who followed us, we closed out games in the third period,” Deforge said. “Teams could just not skate with us and it goes back to the work ethic that the kids have. They just bust their butts off all summer long and we tell them, ‘Nobody can skate with you. If you have the energy, no one can skate,’ and it showed up here again today.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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|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 22-26, 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|