If Greg Stefan and his Compuware team have learned anything over the course this crazy season it’s how to deal with any challenges that come their way.
It didn’t take long for the fourth-seeded team to get its first taste of adversity at the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 15 Only National Championship. In the end, it proved to be no big deal as they rose to the occasion and got off on the right foot with a 7-1 victory over the Dallas Stars Elite.
Charlie Lewinski paced a balanced attack with a pair of goals, and Jaden Johnson added a goal and assist as Compuware used a relentless forecheck to pressure the Stars into several pivotal mistakes that found their way into the back of the net.
“I told our team before we got here that we’re going to face challenges and we’re going to need to face them head on and overcome them,” said Stefan, who is wrapping up his fourth season coaching in the Compuware organization.
Compuware jumped out to an early lead when Lewinski scored off a centering pass from Johnson just 2:32 in to the game.
Michael Burchill made it 2-0 when he picked up a loose puck at center ice and blew past a Dallas defender and beat Stars goalie Austin Caley with a wrist shot.
Compuware kept up the pressure, which resulted in its third goal of the period as Zak Januszkowski intercepted Ben Sujack’s clearing pass and slipping it under Caley.
The Stars showed signs of life in the second period as Scott Moritz finally solved Compuware goalie Luca Naurato to cut the lead. Minutes later, following a scrum in front of the Dallas net, Compuware was whistled for multiple infractions and found themselves down a man.
The extended power play appeared to turn the tables in favor of the hosts, but Naurato and the rest of his Compuware teammates were equal to the task as they created as many scoring chances as they gave up during the penalty kill.
“Once we killed that penalty I think it really gave us a lot of momentum,” Stefan said.
“I’ve never seen a seven-minute penalty before and at first I was a little upset, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you have to adapt to how the officials call the game. They called the game pretty tight today.”
Compuware broke things open in the third period as Lewinski added his second and then Johnson and Daniel MacLeish scored 30 seconds apart.
For all the teams who made the journey to Texas to compete here this week, just being here is a testament to their tenacity and creativity to survive a hockey season like no other.
Compuware was one of the lucky ones, never feeling much of an impact during the season as they managed to stay healthy as they set their sights on winning another USA Hockey National Championship.
“This is what our kids have been playing for,” Stefan said. “We’re happy to be here and we’re ready to test ourselves against the best teams in the country.”
HIGHLIGHT: Januszkowski intercepts a clearing pass and slips it into the net for the third goal.
Christopher O’Flaherty paced the offensive attack with a pair of goals, and Sammy Grimaldi added a goal and an assist as CYA used three second-period goals to break open what had been a close game. Ryan Morgan and Frederick Fangmann pitched power-play goals to provide goalie Dominick Gatto with all the support he would need as the fifth seeded Americans cruised to victory. Blayne Mortenson scored the lone marker for the Blue Ox.
Despite the heroics of Sioux Falls goaltender Lincoln Mellenthin, the Chicago Mission showed why they are the tournament’s top seed with a free-flowing display of offensive wizardry that proved too much for the upset-minded Power. Jacob Wan’s goal just 21 seconds into the game staked South Dakota to a lead that Mellenthin would make standup throughout the first frame. But Joseph Willis scored the first of his two goals early in the second period to get the Mission offense rolling. Jacob Jastrzebski snapped a 2-2 tie early in the final frame to help the Mission pull away late.
Led by two-time Olympian and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Gionta, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres announced loud and clear that they are a team to be reckoned with in the 15 Only division. The Sabres scored four times in the third period to dig out of a 3-1 hole on goals from Dylan McFadden, Parker Wojczechowski and Adam Gionta. Riley Cwiklinkski added an empty net goal. Teams traded first period goals as Ian Wirth opened the scoring for Buffalo before Shattuck’s Joshua Erickson responded 43 seconds later. Second-period goals by Zeev Buium and Daniel Shlane gave Shattuck the lead before the Jr. Sabres came roaring back.
Six goals in the first period was more than enough for the Mid-Fairfield Rangers to kick off the tournament in style. Salvatore Guzzo scored just 44 seconds after the drop of the puck, and Logan Renkowski scored two of his four goals in the first period to pace the offensive onslaught for the Rangers. Brian Nicholas added a goal and two assists for Mid-Fairfield. Maxwell Lightwood paced the Alaskans with a goal and assist.
After failing to find the back of the net for two periods, Team Wisconsin discovered its offensive punch in the final frame by scoring four times to knock out the Avalanche. Anthony Cappello scored with 50 seconds left in the middle frame to snap the scoreless tie, Rich Rucireto’s goal early in the third gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead. Goals by Brady Cleveland and John McGregor drew Team Wisconsin even and set the stage for Brendan Gruber’s heroics. The shifty forward stole the puck near center ice and beat one defender before slipping a shot under the sprawling arm of Avalanche goaltender Stephen Peck. Reece Cordray added an empty net goal to seal the win.
Reid Daavettila’s first period power-play goal was all the offense Kenneth Augustine would need as the Honeybaked netminder stopped all 26 shots he faced to notch the first shutout of the tournament. Nathan Murray added an insurance marker in the third period to seal the win.
Connors Eilers staked the Alliance to a first period lead and goaltender Michael Chambre was not about to give it up. Trey Wandell’s short-handed tally padded the cushion that Chambre would never relinquish. Theodore Merrill and Jake Gutwirth each scored to keep the Saints within striking distance.