Rochester, Mich. – The 18U Rhode Island Saints had their season end in heartbreak last year. At the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championship semifinals, the team went down, 3-0, to the eventual champions from Rochester Youth Hockey. After scoring two goals, the team could not quite finish the comeback and their season ended.
It's a new year and the team is in Rochester, Mich for the 2022 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships. Now, the returning members of the team are using that tough loss as motivation in their final chance for youth glory.
“Obviously last year left a bad taste in our mouth,” said Zachary Aben. “We knew we had a chance last year, we knew we could win and it was tough to see it end like that.”
William Lawrence said that not only was he disappointed that the 18U team couldn’t win, but he spoke about all of the age groups at his organization. He has pride in the organization he plays for.
“We all lost last year and so I think we’re all feeling ready to come back. We don’t want to lose this anymore, and it may be some of our last chances. So that’s why we’ll leave it all out there.”
“It definitely does motivate us to get out there,” said Trevor Kruczek. “It’s definitely not a feeling I want to feel again.”
With experience comes the responsibility to help some of the newcomers learn and get fueled to continue to compete. These four returners are hoping they can be the leaders of the team and help their teammates hoist the trophy at the end of the weekend.
“I feel like we have a group that is very strong,” said Ryan O’Connell. “I feel like we can go a long way if we stick together.
Despite the loss, it certainly hasn’t spoiled the experience they’ve had at Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth National Championships as a whole. O’Connell said he has loved playing in the tournament.
“I feel like Nationals is the best of the best. It’s fun, it’s exciting and your teammates come together and become closer. It’s been incredible.”
“It’s a good opportunity for us not only as individuals but as a team to come together and show what we’ve been working on all year. We’re looking to put together a masterpiece at the end.”
After starting the tournament with a win, the Saints lost a tough back-and-forth battle to Culver Academy. Now the balance of the season and the completion of that desired masterpiece hangs on their matchup with Dallas on Friday.
“I think we just have a really tough team on and off the ice,” said Kruczek. “We are mentally tough and I think we have a team that can definitely get it done.”
“Obviously it’s a must-win situation for us,” said Aben. “We’re going to come out hungry.”
“We’re going to dig down deep,” said Lawrence. “We want to leave it all on the ice.”