MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. - Pittsburgh scored four unanswered goals, including two from Grant Dietz, to defeat the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 4-1 to advance to the semifinals of the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship.
“It was high energy from both teams there’s no question about that,” said Kevin Muller, head coach for the 16U Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. “Oakland had a really nice start and they pushed real hard, but our guys stuck to it. They stuck to their game plan. We were able to pop a couple goals in the second period, which really flipped the momentum of the game. As we’ve been doing all year, the boys really stuck together and fought for each other.”
Ryan Cartwright and Camden Davis had back-to-back scoring chances for the Penguins as time expired on a Pittsburgh power play with over 10 minutes to play in the first, but the game remained scoreless.
The Grizzlies opened the scoring with 9:43 on the clock in the first when Jack O'Hanisain capitalized on a one-timer right in front of the net off a backhanded pass from John Emmons from just below the faceoff circle.
Pittsburgh looked to answer immediately with a shot from Cartwright at the point, but it was scooped up by Oakland goaltender Rocco Stolz, who finished with 32 stops for the Grizzlies.
With 7:45 to go in the first, Stolz stopped Pittsburgh’s Eddie Paulissian on a breakaway attempt to preserve the Grizzlies’ 1-0 lead. Pittsburgh looked to even the score again with 3:19 to go with a shot from Dietz and a follow up from Jaxon Wilson, who went after the rebound, but Stolz came up with saves on both.
Oakland’s Travis Bryson started off the second period with a chance for the Grizzlies, but it was gloved down from Pittsburgh goaltender Jeffrey Kreidler. The Grizzlies followed that up with back-to-back scoring opportunities, but the score remained 1-0.
Pittsburgh scored two goals within 40 seconds of each other to take a 2-1 lead with less than a minute to play in the second period. Caden Pendo tied the game up with 1:21 left on the clock in the second. Pendo tapped in the rebound on the back doorstep off an initial shot from Pittsburgh’s Matthew DiMarsico.
Less than a minute later, Cole Bianchin found the back of the net off of his own rebound to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead going into the third.
In a one-goal game and a trip to the semifinals on the line, the first 10 minutes of the third period went scoreless on both sides, but there was no shortage of opportunities for either team.
Similarly to the end of the second period, the Penguins registered back-to-back goals within two minutes, both from Dietz, to close out regulation.
“This is what we’ve worked so hard for all year long,” Muller said. “We’re finally here. So now, every day counts, every shift counts and every minute counts. For us to be here, it’s kind of nice we get to mentally reset and watch our 18U team tonight and support them and that’s important as a program that we come support each other. They were here supporting us today so that was fun. It’s then really about us sitting down, doing our pre-scouts for tomorrow and we’ll get back to work and get the minds right.”
Noah Grolnic nabbed the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Colorado Thunderbirds the win, 4-3, against the NJ Rockets. After trailing 3-1 after two periods, Colorado scored twice to tie it in the third and won it in overtime to advance to the semifinals. Jack O’Rourke scored two goals, including the equalizer, for the Thunderbirds.
Nicholas Moldenhauer scored four of the six NJ Avalanche goals, including the game-winning goal in the third period, to help the Avalanche defeat Sioux Falls 6-5 to advance to the semifinals. Quentin Musty also registered four points for the Avalanche with one goal and three assists, including an assist to Moldenhauer’s game-winner.
The Buffalo Saints racked up six goals to defeat Honeybaked 6-2 to advance to the semifinals. Nicholas Peluso and Bode Wehle both picked up a goal and an assist against Honeybaked to finished with two points apiece. Buffalo goaltender Colin Winn registered 33 saves for the Saints.