SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Atlanta Phoenix defeated the Alaska Oilers 5-0 to win the 1A division title Monday at the 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships at Solar4America Ice.
There wasn’t just one thing that made the difference, though you can safely say there was no lack of confidence.
“We knew we were going to win,” Phoenix defenseman Kenneth Richter said after the game.
Head coach Denis Stephenson wasn’t quite as certain, but still felt good about their chances.
“We were confident we would win,” he said.
The game started in an early stalemate, with neither team getting much in the way of scoring chances. The Oilers played lockdown defense after they were called for a penalty with ten minutes left in the first.
On that power play, Trenten Hyde missed a shot for the Phoenix. Mitchell Koss got the rebound, only for his shot to be blocked. The Phoenix kept getting chances with the extra attacker, but failed to capitalize while the Oilers held tight on defense.
With 5:39 left in the first, Oilers forward Brent Edmondson was called for hooking. As he sat in the penalty box, Phoenix forward Mitchell Koss drilled a shot for the first score of the game.
“It gets the tightness away, scoring first,” Stephenson said.
As the clock ticked down in the first, the Oilers made a push to tie the game. Ben Martensen took two shots from about 25 feet out. The first was blocked by Phoenix goalie Armon Sarvghad and the second by a defender. Unable to score, the Oilers ended the first period down 1-0.
With 15:51 left in the second, Richter scored the Phoenix’s second goal of the game. Assisted by Konner Soskin, Richter fired an absolute laser to the back of the net, what Stephenson termed “a beautiful play.”
“I saw the puck coming, so I hit it as hard as I could,” Richter said. “They have a good goalie, so I didn’t really aim.”
Stephenson also commended the Oilers’ goalie Hannah Hogenson.
“They have a special goaltender in their net,” he said.
This was the second matchup of the tournament between the Phoenix and the Oilers. They played in the tournament opener on Thursday, and the Phoenix won 4-2.
Atlanta built a greater cushion this time around, and relied on their netminder to keep Alaska off the scoreboard entirely. Sarvghad was excellent in the championship game, carrying the team to a shutout victory.
The Phoenix’s head coach credited his team’s energy level for the improved scoring difference.
“If you don’t stay disciplined, they’ll blow you out of the water,” Stephenson said.
The Phoenix’s roster is mostly made up of players who won last year’s 16U national championship. Twelve of their players were on that winning team.
“I think it’s a little harder at U18, but it feels the same,” said equipment manager Brian Smith, who was with both championship squads.
Stephenson described his team’s playing style as “fast, aggressive, and disciplined.”
The team said they have an incredible bond, formed by playing together since they were young kids, and enhanced even more through their profound success.
“We’re pretty elated,” Stephenson said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.