WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Half of the Hatfield Ice Dogs Blue meetings with local rival Team Philadelphia went into overtime this season.
There was something different, however, about the March 16 game, the middle game of a three-game series between the two teams for the Atlantic District Tier II 16U Youth Tournament Championship at the Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
True to form, the deciding game of the series wound up back in overtime before Dominic Patrone’s goal sent the Ice Dogs, based in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, to nationals with a series-deciding, 4-3 victory.
Prior to the thrilling victory, Hatfield dealt with tough times. One of the Hatfield team leaders inadvertently cleared the puck into his own net early in overtime to give Team Philadelphia a 5-4 victory in the best-of-three series opener. Instead of sulking, the rest of the Ice Dogs had to do something to lift him up.
“The team rallied around him,” Ice Dogs coach Ken Doak said after the team completed the series victory to earn a spot at the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier II 16U National Championships April 4-8 in Plano, Texas. “That was probably the best thing, looking back, that happened.
“We came out on fire. We were not going to lose.”
The Ice Dogs responded in a big way. They came away with a 5-1 victory in Game Two.
After the thrilling third game, Hatfield was nationals bound. The win completed a four-year process for Doak, who took the group of 1998 birthyear players to Plano for nationals in 2015.
“After those boys moved on and were done with their hockey careers, I dropped back to coach ‘02s,” Doak said.
The Ice Dogs returned to districts two years ago but fell short.
“This was the year we were supposed to do this. We have a very strong team.”
The Ice Dogs were strong enough to go 50-12-2, win a Silver Stick Regional title, claim the Delaware Valley Hockey League championship and get the upper hand on Team Philadelphia.
Team Philadelphia won the championship series opener after Hatfield’s Jake Lang had scored his second goal of the game, on the power play, in the final minute of regulation to force overtime.
Lang had a goal and two assists in the dominant Game Two victory. Patrone and Eric Ford each had a goal and an assist.
Special teams helped get Hatfield through regulation in the third game. Ford scored a short-handed goal. David Brunner, who also had an assist, had a power-play goal. Ryan Gingras finished with two assists, including one on Patrone’s winner.
“We knew we were going to get a tough game,” Doak said. “They are one heck of a team. They’re our toughest competition all year long.”
With another trip to Plano secured, the Ice Dogs will be looking to improve on their last performance there. Competing in the 3A Division, Hatfield lost all three of its games last time.
The Ice Dogs won three of the four titles they pursued during the regular season. They swept the DVHL regular season and playoff titles and beat out the Ashburn Xtreme (Va.) and Team Philadelphia for the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League regular-season title before falling to Ashburn, another nationals qualifier, in the championship game.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.