The Chicago Mission program is sending three youth teams, including two Central District champions and one defending national champion, to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships.
While the 16U team tries to defend its national title in Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 3-8, two other teams will be in the title chase.
The 15O team, which also won a Central District title, is competing at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan.
The 14U team, which lost to the Chicago Fury in a tight, best-of-three Illinois state championship series, was invited to the nationals in Pittsburgh as an at-large team.
Gino Cavallini is the Mission hockey director and coach of the 15O team. All but two players on the 15O squad were on the Mission team that made it to 14U nationals a year ago.
The team went 1-2 in 14U pool play in Charlotte, North Carolina, losing one game by a goal and losing another to eventual champion Compuware.
Davis Burnside, who led the team with three goals in last year’s national tournament, is back along with Jack Silich, who had two goals, and defenseman Simon Motew, who had two assists.
Cavallini said the young players coming through the Mission program have benefited from the inspiration of recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“The game has evolved over the years and we’ve been fortunate, especially these players have been fortunate, to grow up watching the Blackhawks win Stanley Cups,” Cavallini said. “I want to say we try to mimic our game after them. We’re a high-tempo, puck-possession, skating team.”
Cavallini said the same emphasis carries across the program’s various teams.
“We just want to make sure they’re good skaters, they can pass the puck and they can do it at a high speed,” he said. “Across the board, we try to get the pace of practice as high as it can be. Sometimes, practices are harder than games.
“Games should be fun because of how hard they work all week in practice. That’s our motto.”
As they move up into the older age groups, most Mission players are prepared for the next step in their developing hockey careers.
“I look at it, especially on the older levels, that this is finishing school,” Cavallini said. “We try to make sure our players are prepared to play at the next level, regardless who the coach is at juniors or in college.”
St. Louis Blues Send A Pair
The St. Louis Blues AAA program is sending two teams to nationals.
The Blues won the 14U Central District title going 3-0 in the round-robin and clinching a berth with a 3-2 shootout win over the Chicago Fury.
The 16U team received an at-large bid to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A Wild Ride To Nationals
The Iowa Wild won the Central District’s Tier I 18U title.
The Wild heads to nationals in Michigan with seven wins and an overtime loss in their last eight games.
The overtime loss came in the first of three round-robin games at the Central District tournament, 5-4, to the St. Louis Blues.
Iowa came back to take the title by beating the Chicago Fury, 3-1, and the Milwaukee Admirals, 5-2.
The Wild heads to nationals with a defense allowing fewer than two goals per game and a balanced offense.
Justin Thompson leads the team with 45 points, but Matthew Allen (42), Seth Davis (40), Zach Frisk (38) and Keegan McDonald (36) are close behind.
Davis has a team-high 24 goals.
Tag(s): District Tourney News