GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Saturday’s Game of the Day featured a high-scoring affair between the Yale Jr. Bulldogs and the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes. The quarterfinal matchup at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I 16U National Championship tournament was a win or go home game for both teams with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
After scoring five first period goals, the Jr. Bulldogs walked away with a convincing 11-3 victory and secured a spot in Sunday’s semifinals.
“I think it was huge scoring early,” said Yale head coach Rob Gagnon. “Once we get the first one, we’re really good playing ahead.”
For a team that enjoys playing ahead, the Jr. Bulldogs had to like its start to the quarterfinal matchup, scoring just 52 seconds into the contest.
After Benjamin Ritter collected the puck at the offensive blue line, he fired a shot on net that was deflected by Lucas Mercuri and past Kevin King for the game’s opening goal.
The Jr. Bulldogs had no intentions of taking its foot off the gas as they tallied a second goal just 14 seconds later.
Matthew Coronato took a pass from Ritter and streaked into the Coyotes zone along the left boards. Coronato made a move to the middle of the ice and fired a wrist shot that beat King to the left side of the net, just below the blocker.
Falling behind by two in 1:06 is a difficult situation for any team to rebound from. However, the Jr. Coyotes welcomed the challenge with open arms, scoring its first goal of the game at the 1:54 mark.
Ethan Eddleblute chipped the puck past a Yale defenseman and towards Jr. Bulldogs goaltender Alexander Rohlf. After the Yale defeneseman lost his footing, Rohlf attempted to play the puck out of trouble, but it bounced off his teammate and up into the air, finding its way into the back of the net on a fortunate bounce for Phoenix.
Less than two minutes into the contest, three goals had already been scored.
After a penalty assessed to Yale for tripping at the 3:31 mark, Phoenix was presented with an opportunity to tie the game early. However, it was the Jr. Bulldogs that would take advantage and score a shorthanded goal to expand its lead back to two.
Phoenix won the offensive zone faceoff back to the point, but Anthony Cipollone was right there for Yale to chip the puck off the boards and out of the zone. From there, Cipollone used his speed to collect the puck and skate in alone on a breakaway before firing the puck through the five hole of King to give Yale a 3-1 lead.
The Jr. Bulldogs capitalized again at the 11:10 mark when Christian Jimenez scored to make it 4-1. After Bayard Hall fired a shot from the point, Jimenez collected the puck in the slot and was all along in front. Faking to his backhand, Jimenez pulled the puck back to his forehand and found the back of the net.
Yale added another shorthanded goal before the end of the first period when Aidan Cobb found himself on a breakaway. After chipping the puck out of the defensive zone, Cobb used his speed to collect the puck and fly into the offensive zone before scoring through the five hole to expand the lead to 5-1.
Opening the second period with a sense of urgency, the Jr. Coyotes got on the board in the opening minute of play. Matthew Knies skated up the left boards into the zone before making a power move toards the net. After using his body to get around the defenseman, Knies beat Rohlf to the far post and slid the puck into the net to shrink the deficit to three.
Yale answered shortly thereafter when Bayard Hall ripped a shot from the point through traffic. Jake Hall, who started the second period for Phoenix, never saw the shot with multiple players screening him and Bayard Hall’s shot found the back of the net at the 2:15 mark.
1:59 later, Yale scored again to expand its lead to 7-2. After Jake Hall made the initial save on a shot from the point, Jacob Quillan collected the rebound at the right side of the net and scored for the Jr. Bulldogs.
After a boarding penalty was assessed to Phoenix at 7:08, Yale scored on the power play to bring the score to 8-2. Mercuri collected a pass at the right faceoff circle and ripped a wrist shot into the top right corner over the glove of Jake Hall.
The Jr. Bulldogs added one more goal at the 14:44 mark of the second period off the stick of Aiden Hotchkiss. Yale skated into the Phoenix zone on a 3-on-1 and after the initial pass was blocked by the Jr. Coyotes defender, Cobb collected the puck and fed Hotchkiss who was waiting at the back door to tap the puck home.
Yale went on to add two more goals in the third period, courtesy of Matthew DeBoer and Zackary Tonelli, while the Jr. Coyotes scored once more off the stick of Sam Deckhut. With a convincing 11-3 final score, Yale will play in the semifinals on Sunday.
“Everyone checked their egos at the door and decided to play as a team,” said Gagnon. “If we play like a team, we’re going to be hard to beat moving forward. It was a fun day.”
Tiernan Shoudy and Carter Mazur each recorded two assists as Little Caesars defeated Compuware, 5-2. Garrett Szydlowski scored the game-winning goal on the power play in the third period. Ty Gallagher and Dylan Duke scored for Compuware in the loss.
After falling behind, 2-0, the Blues scored five consecutive goals to take down the Avalanche, 5-2. Hunter Bulger recorded a team-high three points (three assists), while Hunter Longhi scored two goals. Devin Kaplan scored both goals for the Avalanche.
Brandon Perente and Nick Tessier scored for Pittsburgh while Aidan Campbell stopped all 31 shots against as Pens Elite skated past the Whalers, 2-0.