The first day of the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 14U National Championship kicked off with an exciting contest between the Pittsburgh Pens Elite, the tournament host, and the Chicago Mission.
The Mission survived an early barrage of shots from Pens Elite, who jumped out to a 11-3 shot advantage through the first half of the initial frame as Mission goaltender Lucas Szyszka had to be up to the task early.
Szyszka was composed in net, controlling rebounds and swallowing up shots, allowing the Mission, who haven’t played a meaningful game in over a month to get going. Szyszka finished with 23 saves.
“Lucas was fantastic, he was exactly what we needed in net,” Mission head coach Brian Bicek said. “I told our group before the game, the first period, it’s going to get better from there. It was big to hang on, they threw everything at the net early. A big penalty kill early really kept us in that. Then to get that first goal on the board to gain some momentum and confidence, our game really grew from there.”
That first goal came courtesy of Raymond Owens. After a puck popped into the air in the neutral zone, the Mission emerged with a 3-on-1. Benjamin Moak fed a finishing Owens to give the Mission a 1-0 lead with 4:07 left in the first period.
The game was fast-paced and each team battled to get the next goal. The Mission’s James Duerr pulled it off after breaking free on a pass from Samuel Kamienski with 6:54 left in the middle frame. Duerr faked and went backhand to extend the Mission’s lead to 2-0.
Noah Eyre capitalized on a loose puck in the slot to give the Pens Elite some momentum heading into the final period. With a 3-on-2, a blocked shot left a puck sitting in the high slot which Eyre pounced on with 22.2 seconds left in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1. Logan Cooley and Adam Mahler tallied assists on the play.
With only three games in pool play and two teams from each pool advancing to the quarterfinals on Saturday, each team pushed for the next tally as physical play ramped up.
The Mission’s Edward Paulissian, after being denied a pass on a 2-on-1, was able to fire a shot past Pens Elite netminder Matthew MacArthur to put Chicago in front 3-1, 3:06 into the third period. The Mission added another goal with 2:25 remaining in the game off the stick of Carson Walters, who was found on the back door by Brennan Ali.
MacArthur finished with 23 saves for the Pens Elite, who will take on the Anchorage North Stars tomorrow. Chicago will match up against Shattuck St. Mary’s.
After the game, Bicek reflected on how important it is at the National Championships to get off to a good start, especially with how competitive this age group and tournament is expected to be.
“It’s huge,” Bicek said. “We knew the first game was huge. I’ve been telling people all week long, I’ve been around this 2004 age group for going on five years now. I’m quite familiar with most kids and most teams across the country and there’s not one team here that could win this tournament and it’d surprise me.”
“It’s huge, and I told the boys to enjoy it now, but we’re not satisfied, Bicek said. “We want to move on to the weekend and the most important game is the next one.”
Issac Howard scored a pair of goals while William Whitelaw and Braedon Ford each found the back of the net as well to help push Shattuck St. Mary’s past Anchorage, 4-1. Braxton Whitehead had the lone tally for the North Stars, who had a strong push back following falling behind by a pair of goals early. Bryant Marks finished with 28 saves for the North Stars while Shattuck goaltender Christian Manz turned aside 17 shots in the win.
Rhett Kodsi played hero for the Alliance in overtime, unleashing a wrist shot that found the back of the net and gave Florida a 3-2 win in a tightly contested matchup. Nicholas Rooney and Blake Andreoni also scored for the Alliance, while Jake Kloss had the opening goal for Valley Forge and Josh Peabody tied the game at 2-2 for the Minutemen early in the third. Brody Lim stopped 17 shots while Primo Baldassarre made 19 saves for Valley Forge.
Brando DiAntonio had a pair of goals and Landon MacDonald, Hunter Brzustewicz, Lane Hutson and Rutger McGroarty also scored for Honeybaked in the win. The Blues cut the deficit to 3-2 with 10 minutes left in the third period but were unable to equalize after getting into some penalty trouble. Jack Larrigan, Kelly Coldwater and Tyler Catalano tallied goals for the team from The Show-Me State. Ben Behrens made 18 saves for the Blues while Cameron Korpi stopped 14 shots in the win.
Frank Nazar had a hat trick and Michael Mesic added two goals and an assist as Little Caesars topped Sioux Falls. Luke Lisko, Christian Kocsis and Justin Varner also tallied for the Detroit-based squad while Jaxon Grosdidier scored for the Power. Ryan Manzella put forth a strong effort between the pipes for Sioux Falls, making 33 saves, while Prestyn Carter recorded the win.
Two third period goals helped push the Jr Rangers past the Jr Ducks. Brandon Grant opened the scoring for the Jr Ducks in the 1st period, while Nicholas Capasso scored a penalty shot goal to draw even. Andon Cerbone put the Jr Rangers in front in the second period before Jungwook Hong tied the game four minutes later. Charles Leddy and Jake Manfre helped supply the difference though with their pair of goals in the final frame, as Gavin Moffatt made 18 saves in the win. Alex Koenig turned aside 17 shots for the Jr Ducks.
Seamus Casey had five points (2G, 3A), Ryan Abraham had a hat trick and an assist, and Patrick Czarnecki and Gavin Hayes each had three points as Compuware powered past South Shore. Michael Callow had the Kings' lone goal in the loss.
Ryan Conmy scored the game-winning goal with 3:53 remaining in the game, one of two third period goals by Buffalo, the other scored by Brody Crane as the Jr Sabres came back to beat the Thunderbirds in the final game of the day. Quentin Musty had the other Buffalo goal while Borya Valis and Dylan Zukosky scored for Colorado. Joseph Lovullo made 18 saves in the win while Caleb Allen made 10 saves in the loss.