The Chicago Mission Tier I 16U team brings an uncommon level of big-game experience to the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I 16U Youth National Championship April 3-8 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The defending national champions feature five players – Nick Addante, Kyle Aucoin, Matt Basgall, James Doyle and Jack Horbach – who not only are looking to repeat as 16U champions but are also seeking their third straight national title together after playing on the Mission’s 14U national championship team during the 2016-17 season.
Will Bowman, Nicholas Donato, Max Itagaki, Matt Romer, Kyle Smolen and Anton Sorensen are also trying to win their second straight title at the age group.
“Our guys have been there before,” Mission coach Anders Sorenson said. “They’ve been through the rigors of playing these games. They know kind of what it takes in certain situations. I’m sure we’ll lean on those guys a little bit before games and during games.”
All that experience – and another year of growth – leads the coach to think the team he is bringing back to nationals could be superior in many ways to last year’s championship team.
“I think our back line is a lot stronger than we were last year, the depth of it,” Sorensen said. “And, I think we’re probably more of a four-line team than last year.
“We like our group. We’re probably a little faster in team speed than we were as well.”
Chicago went 6-0 in last year’s tournament in Philadelphia, beating Team Wisconsin, 3-1, in the title game. The Mission posted two shutouts and the final was the third time they held an opponent to a single goal.
Basgall and Horbach are the top returning scorers from that tournament. They each had four points at nationals when the Mission got between three and seven points from a dozen different players.
Addante had a tournament-high four wins in goal in 2017 when the Mission won their first 14U title in its sixth championship game appearance after losing in five finals between 2008 and 2015.
Chicago beat its three Central District opponents by a total of 15-1, but the tournament was not without drama.
Missouri champion St. Louis Blues AAA had the game tied, 1-1, late, but needed a win in the final game of the four-team round-robin event, so the Blues pulled their goalie.
The Mission used two empty-net goals to produce the 3-1 victory and officially land their nationals berth as the district champion.
“That was definitely a good test for our guys,” coach Sorensen said.
Chicago heads to Grand Rapids with a few more good tests on the horizon.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.