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Mid-Fairfield Works Overtime To Claim Title

By Harry Thompson, 04/11/17, 10:00AM MDT

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Chiefs earn crown behind 32-save performance by Mann

Final/OT 1 2 3 OT1 T
Mid-Fairfield Chiefs 1 1 1 1 4
Team Wisconsin 0 2 1 0 3
/ UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex / Dick's
Summary

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Tier I hockey and tee-ball are at opposite ends of the sports spectrum, but there are those times when every participant really does deserve a trophy.

When the Mid-Fairfield Chiefs and Team Wisconsin locked up in an epic overtime showdown, it was a shame that either team was going to skate off the ice without the championship hardware in hand.

But USA Hockey only hands out one first-place medal to one team, and Chiefs earned theirs thanks to a 32-save performance by Strauss Mann and Nick VanBelle's overtime heroics.

"It sucks that there has to be a winner and a loser because both teams worked hard, but it’s good we came  out on top. I think we earned it," said VanBelle, who made his only goal of the tournament a big one when he banged in a Ryan Doolin rebound at the 15:57 minute mark of the extra session.

"Both teams were giving it their all out there and we were just fortunate to be able to outwork them a little bit at the end and get that winning goal."

 After starting the season together, Mid-Fairfield watched its players scatter to play for seven different prep schools around New England before reuniting two weeks prior to heading off to Pittsburgh. From the drop of the puck, the Chiefs looked as if they had played together all year, which was a tribute to great coaching and the tight bonds that withstood the test of time and distance.

"These kids really bought into what we talked to them about," said head coach Shawn Conner. "They just constantly shocked us with how they consistently exceeded our expectations."

After beating a tough and disciplined Culver Academy team to get here, they continued to exceed expectations as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

The Chiefs opened the scoring thanks to the hard work of Jordi Jefferson, who picked a Wisconsin defender's pocket and found Christian LeSeuer staring at an empty net. 

They padded the lead 19 seconds into the second frame when Ryan Doolin took a pass from Nick VanBelle and drove hard to the net to beat Wisconsin goaltender Sam Dunn.

As their first four opponents learned the hard way, no lead is safe when facing this spunky and skilled team from the heartland of America. 

Cole Caufield may not the biggest or the strongest player on the ice. And he's probably not the fastest skater or possesses the hardest shot. But the Mosinee, Wis., native has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Just ask Shattuck-St. Mary's, whose season came to an end when Caulfield scored the game winner in overtime in the semifinals.

He was back at it on Monday, scoring 14 seconds into the final frame to cut the lead in half with his tournament-leading seventh goal. Ian Malcolmson followed suit less than three minutes later to knot the score.

"We’ve played better games, which is probably the toughest pill for these guys to swallow," said Wisconsin head coach Luke Strand. "Our game from the beginning to end was like night and day. We needed to have a better start, especially against such a talented team."

With momentum on their side, Brady Bjork gave Wisconsin a short-lived lead before Christian LeSeuer tucked a shot under the crossbar for an unassisted power-play goal to force an extra session.

"The boys played their hearts out. I don’t know how much gas they had, either team. I think they were playing on pure adrenaline," Conner said in between hugs with his players. "I’m just so happy for our guys. I’ve never seen a team come together so quickly and play that hard in my life."

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2017 USA Hockey National Championship Sites

Division Location Host Dates
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