WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — More than a dozen Tier I youth teams headed down to Florida last weekend to compete in the USA Hockey Southeastern District Youth Tier I Tournament at AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel. At stake were district titles in four age groups, which were to be accompanied by automatic berths to the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships.
There were no blowouts and the lone game decided by one goal went into overtime with the outcome decided inside of two minutes of the extra period.
“These are the best teams in our affiliates,” said tournament co-chairperson Linda Jondo, who also had high praise for two-year-old ice and sports complex in west central Florida that hosted the tourney. “It’s been very close competition at very competitive levels.”
In April, the winners from the Southeastern District Tournament will compete at nationals in one of three sites around the country. The 14Us will play in Pittsburgh, the 15Us will play in Plymouth, Michigan and the 16Us and 18Us will head to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with their national title dreams.
This is how it all went down at AdventHealth Center Ice March 8-10.
Capitals survive back-to-back OT thrillers to take 18U title
The Washington Little Capitals went 4-0 in the 18U tournament, but it was anything but easy. After winning their first two games by a combined 13-3, the Capitals ran into a lively Team Maryland squad that pushed them to overtime. The Capitals prevailed, setting up a title game against Thunder AAA Hockey, whom Washington had beaten 4-1 in its first game.
In the final game of the youth tournament, Washington was again pushed to an extra frame, winning a 2-1 overtime thriller.
“I’m so impressed with the character of these guys,” Washington coach Matt Thomas said. “They grew up a little bit this week.”
Team Maryland wins wide-open 16U division
While the 18U final brought a thrilling end to the youth tournament, the rest of the games didn’t hold quite as much excitement. But they did see a lot of competitive hockey.
In the 16U division, Team Maryland went 4-0, but opened with a nervy 6-5 win in a shootout over the Nashville Jr. Predators. Nashville ended up finishing second in the standings with 4 points, just edging the Florida Alliance and Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, who each had 3.
Nashville earned a rematch with Team Maryland in the title game, but could not replicate its earlier performance, falling 5-1 in the second game of the day in Wesley Chapel.
Thunder get revenge on Jr. Hurricanes to win 15-Only title
Thunder AAA Hockey opened the 15-Only tournament with a 3-2 shootout win over the Washington Little Capitals. They again played bonus hockey in their second game, but this time falling to the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes 5-4. That was the lone blemish for the Thunder, while Carolina went 4-0.
That meant a title game rematch, and the Thunder were able to reverse course, winning 5-3 in regulation.
Florida Alliance rolls to 14U title
Florida Alliance gave up only three goals in their run to the 14U title. Two of them came from the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. The Alliance opened the tournament by beating the Hurricanes 6-1. They then shutout Team Maryland 2-0 and dropped Thunder AAA Hockey 6-1.
They met the Jr. Hurricanes again in the title game, this time prevailing by a score of 5-1. It was a good weekend for the Florida Alliance organization, as its girls teams also won Tier II district titles at 14U and 16U.
2019 USA Hockey Southeastern District Youth Tier I Tournament Champions
14U: Florida Alliance
15-Only: Thunder AAA Hockey
16U: Team Maryland
18U: Washington Little Capitals