IRVINE, Calif. — In a season filled with adversity, the 16U Anaheim Jr. Ducks showed resilience by winning the USA Hockey Pacific District Youth Tier I 16U District Tournament title over the Alaska Oilers.
It was a measure of payback, as the Jr. Ducks lost to the Oilers 5-4 in overtime earlier in the tournament. They were able to come back to defeat the Oilers in another close game, 2-1, and be crowned champions of the Pacific District, winning the title just down Interstate 5 from Anaheim at Great Park ICE in Irvine. With the win, the Jr. Ducks will compete in the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship. The tournament will be hosted by Fox Motors Hockey Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from April 3-8.
Despite 20 wins and 23 losses during the regular season, Jr. Ducks coach Alex Kim felt very confident in his team going into the weekend.
“Our team had a lot of positive growth over the season. The players did a great job buying into the habits and concepts that our coaching staff was trying to teach. We are extremely proud of their effort all season and showing the resiliency when faced with adversity.”
Like the regular season, the Jr. Ducks faced some challenges in getting to the Pacific District championship game on Sunday. They had two wins and a loss going into the final. Their one loss was to the Alaska Oilers team that they were to meet with a trip to nationals on the line.
Forward Brendan Williams was first to score in the rematch with 11:31 left in the first period to give the Jr. Ducks the lead. The Oilers would soon tie it up with 5:28 left in the period as Kerich Jackson scored an even strength goal to make it 1-1.
Williams scored again, which turned out to be the game-winning tally, to make it 2-1 with 18 seconds left in the second period.
Both goaltenders were excellent throughout the game. Jr. Ducks goalie Aidan Hanson made 18 saves on 19 shots and Edward Makar made 29 saves on 30 shots in a losing effort for the Oilers.
Jr. Ducks goaltenders Owen Millward and Aidan Hanson have played well between the pipes all season. They were key components in helping their team not only make it to, but win the Pacific District championship. Forward Brandan Williams and defenseman Kobe Pane had strong performances in the championship game as well.
This team will most certainly face more adversity and challenges as they face the best of the best in the country at the 16U level next month. As for the prospect of his team facing such an elite level of talent at nationals, Kim summed it up.
“We hope that our players will be able to create great memories that they can carry with them for years to come,” he said. “Making it to the National Championship is an honor and privilege and our players are excited for the opportunity.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.