GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Friday’s action at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship featured a win-or-go-home matchup between Compuware and the Chicago Mission.
After a hard-fought contest with plenty of goals, Compuware walked away with a 4-2 victory and advanced to the tournament quarterfinals that will be played Saturday at Southside Ice Arena.
“Our guys were ready to play,” said Compuware head coach Ryan Barnes. “This team usually finds a way to rise to the moment. Obviously, we had a really good start and that propelled us into walking away with the win.”
Compuware got on the board early courtesy of a wrist shot from Redmond Savage at the 1:42 mark. Savage collected the puck on the left boards at the Mission blue line and streaked into the zone before firing a shot from the left circle that snuck past Matthew O’Donnell and gave Compuware the early lead.
The teams continued to fly up and down the ice before Dylan Duke gave Compuware a 2-0 lead at the 6:29 mark.
After a puck battle ensued in the left corner of the Mission zone, Sasha Pastujov collected the puck and made a move towards the Chicago goal. Pastujov, a left-handed shot, proceeded to throw a no-look, behind the back pass to Dylan Duke who ripped a wrister into the top corner over the glove of O’Donnell.
Both teams continue to battle as the Mission felt a sense of urgency to get on the board. Chicago continued to fire shots at the Compuware goal, but Luca Di Pasquo stood tall in the net, turning away several shots prior to the end of the period.
It looked as though the period would end with Compuware up 2-0, but Pastujov added a third goal for his squad with just 31 seconds remaining in the stanza. Pastujov carried the puck into the offensive zone along the right boards and fed a pass to the slot. Dylan Duke attempted to fire a shot on goal that was blocked by a Mission defenseman, but Pastujov was right there to pick up the puck and beat O’Donnell to the far post, giving Compuware a 3-0 lead after one.
Nicholas Addante took over in goal for the Mission at the start of the second period, a period that was filled with power play opportunities for both teams. Despite multiple shots being fired on goal during these power play chances, both goaltenders welcomed the challenge and stood tall in their respective creases.
Sasha Pastujov uses a behind-the-back pass to find Dylan Duke, who fires a shot home to put Compuware up 2-0.
Similar to the first period, a goal was scored in the final minute of play in the second stanza, but this time it was Chicago finding the back of the net.
As the clock dwindled down nearing the end of the second period, Donald (Hank) Kempf found Nicholas Urtis with a pass at center ice. Urtis, a right-handed shot, flew into the Compuware zone and found open ice near the right faceoff circle. After drawing the goaltender out of his net, Urtis made a move around the net and beat Di Pasquo to the far post, scoring the Mission’s first goal on a wraparound.
After two hard-fought periods with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line, the teams went to the locker rooms with Compuware leading 3-1 after two.
“We’ve been in a lot of these situations before in championship games over the years,” said Barnes. “After the second, I just told them to go do what they do. I told them to rise to the occasion and go big game hunting and they did just that.”
With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, things heated up in the third period as both teams left everything on the ice.
After a penalty was assessed to the Mission for high sticking, Compuware went on the power play at the 5:04 mark and scored to extend its lead to 4-1.
Andrew Jeffers received a pass at the left faceoff circle and fired a one-timer that missed the net just wide. After the puck sailed wide, it bounced off the end boards and popped right out on the right side of the net where Conor Ronayne was waiting to rip a shot past Addante.
Despite being down by three in the third period, the Mission showed no quit and responded with a goal just 26 seconds after the Ronayne tallied for Compuware.
After Compuware tried to clear the puck out of its defensive zone, Matthew Basgall made a great play to stand up at the blue line and hold the puck in. Basgall made a move around a Compuware player and found himself in the high slot before ripping a wrist shot over the blocker of Di Pasquo and into the back of the net.
Down by two, Chicago pulled its goalie with 3:28 remaining, but could not find a way to score. With the victory, Compuware advanced to the quarterfinals and will be back on the ice on Saturday in another win or go home matchup.
“We’ve got to be ready,” said Barnes. “We’ve been considered an underdog in a few games and we embrace that. It’s going to be fun moving forward.”
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