Showing the speed and skill needed to compete with any team in the country, the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite displayed their quick strike capability to break open a close game and punch their ticket to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I 14U National Championship.
Determined to play another day, the Penguins put to rest any doubt as to who would grab the second seed in the Liberty division when Ryder Dagenas, Brandon Webber and Jack Edwards scored during a four-minute span early in the second period.
“In those three or four minutes, we were able to capitalize on a couple of odd-man rushes and bury a couple, and that opened the game off a little bit,” said Penguins head coach Brian Mueller.
“The guys earned it today and earned the right to play tomorrow.”
The Avalanche made them earn every inch of ice as they battled until the final whistle.
After Dagenas opened the scoring at the 10:57 mark, Avs forward Lucas Peterson responded with the equalizer. It would be one of the few shots that would slip past Pens goalie Tanner McKiven, who has been solid throughout the tournament.
“He was special today,” Mueller said. “He’s been special all tournament. He’s tracking pucks really well, he’s staying engaged. He moves very well. We’re hoping that he continues.”
One of six teams from the Penguins Elite organization competing at Tier I Nationals across the country, this squad has shown resiliency throughout the season that has been marked by injuries and suspensions, not to mention dealing with the challenges of COVID-19. The team posted a 23-10-3 record and scored 133 goals while surrendering 83 this year.
“These kids have been real flexible. We’ve had a lot of games cancelled over the whole COVID thing, but they've been able to maintain their focus and their intensity and really control the things that they can control,” Mueller said.
“This has been such a crazy year for everybody. It's almost like it's just another, it's just another hurdle you overcome and you move on.”
And this Pens team is ready to do just that.
Buffalo Saints 5, Chicago Mission 3
James Chase’s third-period goal snapped a 3-3 tie to lift the Buffalo Saints to a 3-0 record through the preliminary round. Second period goals by Michael Sandruck, Nicholas Wellenreiter and Nathan Delladonna helped the Saints erase an early deficit after Jacob Ingstrup gave the Mission an early lead. Goals by Jake Merens and Robert Bartell also scored for the Mission.
Minuteman (Mass.) Flames 4, Team Maryland 0
Ryder Shea stopped 21 shots and Drew Carr paced the offensive attack with a pair of goals as the Minuteman Flames finished their tournament on a high note. Trey Hayes and Christopher Calvanese also scored for the Minuteman.
Boston Jr. Eagles 4, LA Jr. Kings 2
Brendan Carberry stopped 29 of the 31 shots sent his way as the Boston Jr. Eagles doubled up the LA Jr. Kings to remain undefeated. Theodore Stiga and Gavin Cornforth paced the Eagles with a goal and an assist. Patrick Fortune and Nicholas Christianson found the scoreboard for the Kings.
Colorado Thunderbird 4, Compuware 3
Trey Hinton scored his second goal of the game as the Thunderbird staged a third-period rally to win their first game of the tournament.
NE Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers 4, RI Saints 3, OT
Harold Schock scored in overtime to lift the Jr. Gamblers to their first win of the tournament. William Zellers, Ty Bashaw and Samuel Kappell also scored for the Gamblers. Sacha Boisvert, James Hagen and Jackson Delleo paced the Saints attack.
Shattuck St. Mary’s 8, NJ Colonials 1
Cole Eiserman (2 goals, 3 assists) and Macklin Celebrini (1 goal, 4 assists) paced the potent Shattuck attack, and Brodie Ziemer added a 2 goals and 2 assists as Shattuck steamrolled into Saturday’s quarterfinals. Lukas Bergman stopped 17 shots, only surrendering a power-play goal to Jack Gerne for the Colonials.
St. Louis Blues 6, Team North Dakota 0
Nelson Vickar made 30 saves, including several of the spectacular variety, to backstop the St. Louis Blues into the quarterfinals. Shane Vansaghi, Joseph Hyten and Brayden Duy each scored twice to pace the St. Louis attack.