MCKINNEY, Texas — Practice didn’t make perfect, but it was enough to propel the underdog Charleston Jr. Stingrays to take their city’s first national championship.
“We were totally the underdogs,” coach Matt Mons said after the Stingrays’ 5-4 overtime win over the Atlanta Madhatters at the StarCenter in McKinney, Texas.
Colton Mons scored the game-winner 10:55 into overtime, two seconds before a power play expired.
“The puck went right to me,” Colton said. “I didn’t see it go in. All I saw was parents cheering.”
It was the Stingrays’ third power play goal in six attempts. A fourth came while Charleston had the puck on an Atlanta delayed penalty, and Hunter Kifer scored a shorthanded goal.
“For a month before we came here,” Matt Mons said, “three times a week in our hour and a half practice, we spent 30 minutes on specialty teams.”
The Stingrays held the Madhatters to one goal in four man advantages.
Atlanta scored first when Julian Batylin skated in front of the net for a power play goal 8:43 into the game. That was their only lead in the game.
Charleston’s Colin Gallagher scored a power play goal with a shot off the right goal post at 11:09. The Stingrays took their first lead at 12:39. On the delayed penalty, Hudson Nguyen scored.
The Stingrays killed a second-period power play on which Kifer scored a shorthanded goal just 19 seconds in.
The Madhatters cut that lead to 3-2 at 11:28 of the second period when William Grogan put the puck in from the right side of the net. Charleston had just two shots on goal in the second but one went in to maintain the Stingrays’ lead entering the third period.
For the game, Atlanta had a 35-15 advantage in shots on goal, but Conner Carrafiello made 31 saves for Charleston.
“Connor played great. We only had one goalie for the whole season,” Coach Mons said.
The Madhatters pulled within 3-2 when Grogan scored from the right side of the net. It was still 3-2 when the Stingrays had another power play four minutes through the third period. A man down, Atlanta turned aggressive and controlled the puck but couldn’t score.
The Madhatters were able to tie the game on a goal by Aidan Ennis at 7:51, but the Stingrays retaliated on Colton Mons’s first power play goal for a 4-3 lead.
With 2:31 to play in regulation, Sebastian Kaminsky scored for Atlanta to send the game to overtime.
Both teams swept their way through four games into the championship contest. The Stingrays did it with the highest goals per game (7.1) of any Tier II team, outscoring opponents, 29-9.
The Madhatters were the stingiest defensive team, allowing 0.75 goals per game and outscoring opponents, 20-3. It took the Stingrays less than 20 minutes to score. The closest call for either team in the tournament was Charleston’s 3-2 win over the Montana Big Sky Stars to get into Monday’s final. Atlanta had two-goal margins over the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights (2-0) and Team Wyoming (3-1) to reach the game against the Stingrays, and defeated the Big Sky Stars, 5-2.
Kaminsky led the Madhatters in the tournament with three goals and seven assists for 10 points. Charleston’s top scorer was Kifer with six goals and six assists. Owen Buzon scored five goals, all in an 11-5 win over Team Wyoming, and added four assists.
“I’ve been coaching in Charleston 20 years,” said Matt Mons. “When I coached my older son, we made it to the national semifinals four years in a row.
“This is the first national championship for our city. All but three of our players will move up to U16, and I’ll go with them the next two years. We’ll be a young team, but the experience we gained here will help.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.