PLYMOUTH, Mich. – It was a rematch of sorts of last year’s National Championship. The players were different, but the organizations were the same as the Buffalo Jr. Sabres faced off against Little Caesars in the quarterfinals of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 15O National Championship.
The top two seeds heading into the tournament, Little Caesars lost a game in pool play to create this quarterfinal matchup. The result was different this time around, as Evan Wissink scored a hat trick to lead Little Caesars to a 5-1 win. For Wissink, the three-goal effort did not only help his team move on to the semifinals, but also meant a lot to him personally.
“My dad is in the hospital right now,” the forward said. “So that was for him.”
“He’s been a hard-working kid for us all year,” said Little Caesars Head Coach Patrik Stefan. “He got rewarded for going to the hard areas, and the boys were all happy for him.”
Little Caesars capitalized on an early power play opportunity. After a Jr. Sabres player lost his stick, the puck snuck out to the point where it was then passed to Wissink. Wissink then made a nice move to sneak it past Buffalo goaltender Nicholas Anderson to make it 1-0.
Midway through the first, the lead was pushed to 2-0. After a shot was blocked, Mikita Tarasevich scooped up the puck in the slot and fired it blocker side for the goal. Just two minutes later, that lead became three. Wissink scored his second goal of the game after collecting a shot the bounced off the back boards in front of the net.
The score remained 3-0 until the final minute of the second period. With 22.1 seconds left, Wissink completed the hat trick. Taking it on his off hand, Wissink fired a shot far side that got through Anderson and made it 4-0.
Buffalo scored their goal early in the third period on a Brady Hildreth goal, but Zakari Brice stopped all of the other shots he faced. A Griffin Jurecki empty net goal secured the 5-1 victory.
“When you reach the quarterfinals, all the teams are good. We knew that Buffalo was good going undefeated in the round robin, and they have a strong group of kids,” Stefan said. “I think that was motivation for our boys. The start was really important for us, because if you go behind against a team like that, it’s going to be a tough game.”
Shattuck St. Mary's 3, Central CT Selects 2 - Shattuck St. Mary's advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling victory over Central CT. The Selects went up early in the first on a Jake Bongo goals. Shattuck responded with three goals in the second period from Casey Aman, Connor Mahoney and Grant Fuchsen. Bongo scored his second of the game midway through the third period, and the Selects threatened with the extra attacker. With just seconds left on the clock, the Selects fired a couple of shots in close but Tyler Krivtsov stopped them all to help his team move on.
Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 3, NJ Rockets 1- Kevin Perrott built upon a two-goal game on Friday to help the Grizzlies earn a spot in the semifinals. Perrott joined teammates Brett Harris and Justin Mexico in the goal column. Gleb Veremyev scored a goal for the Rockets in the third, but it was not enough as Owen Bartoszkiewicz made 22 saves and stop all of the late chances.
Chicago Mission 5, Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 2 - Phoenix scored two late third period goals, but it was not enough as the Mission earned a semifinal spot. Dominick Rivelli got the Mission on the board first, and Andrew Spence and Jack Silich made it 3-0. Matthew Gross scored with two minutes left and then Logan Morrell made it a one-goal game with under a minute to go. Seconds later, Jack Devine scored and then Silich put it away with an empty net goal.