As his Honeybaked team skated around the rink showing off their latest championship hardware to their parents and friends, Jason Deskins stood alone near center ice reflecting about the events of the most challenging season in his coaching career.
“I was thinking about a lot of things,” Deskins said after his team powered past a Florida Alliance crew to capture the Tier I 15 Only title at the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championships.
“We went through a lot this year with all the shutdowns, a lot of disappointments, but a lot of positive things as well.
“We made sure some players really complemented one another, from our skill guys to our will guys. This was a true team and you saw that out on the ice today.”
It was a fitting end to a challenging season for the Detroit-based team that regularly fell victim to mandatory lockdowns in the COVID-19 ravaged state. Like many teams in the state, Honeybaked was constantly forced to adapt to the changing situation as cases peaked early in the season.
The resiliency they showed in adapting and overcoming to the changing times was on display here at Nationals as Honeybaked battled hard from the first game of the preliminary round to the final buzzer on Championship Monday, gutting out gritty wins along the way.
Knowing what it takes to win, Deskins encouraged his troops to get off to a fast start against a team that took a hard road to get here.
Having basically played one extra game than any other team, having survived three overtime periods before winning in three consecutive shootouts, the Alliance had little left in the tank to thwart the Honeybaked attack that started from the drop of the puck.
“In championship games it’s all about how you start. I told our kids that there’s no time to settle in today. We needed to set the pace early get as many shots as we possibly could,” Deskins said.
“We knew we needed to get a lot of traffic in front of the net because they have outstanding goaltender. I think we were effective in pushing the middle of the ice and putting him in situations where he might’ve been under a little bit of duress with pucks coming at him. That was our goal the entire time to get off to a great start, made sure that we were playing with the lead and they were chasing us.”
The Honeybaked players executed that game plan to perfection, scoring three times in the opening period with Charles Cerrato setting the pace setting up Reid Daavettila and Nathan Murray for a pair of pretty goals and scoring one himself off a long outlet pass from Zachary Schulz.
Murray padded the Honeybaked lead just eight seconds into the middle frame when he picked up the loose puck in front of the Alliance net and wristed a shot that snuck under Chambre’s arm.
The Alliance finally found the scoreboard when Connor Brown potted a backhand pass from Trey Wandall to beat Kenneth Augustine, who has been the backbone of the Honeybaked defense all season.
Any dreams of another Alliance shootout win were quickly squashed when Tyler Borgula potted his first goal of the tournament and Murray put a bow on his three-goal performance.
That was more than Florida could overcome, especially after such a grueling week. Still, they kept pressing with Jack Gardner and Kegan Lampinen scoring late for the Alliance.
“We were obviously tired coming out of the gate. I think the three overtime games before this has really kind of taken a toll on us. They were a lot fresher coming out of the blocks and we got behind,” said Alliance head coach James Brown.
“There were a couple of times we tried to make a push, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough left in the tank.”