The Long Island Gulls continued their impressive run at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championships with a 5-1 win over the Jr. Bulldogs. With the win, Long Island remained undefeated and will matchup against the undefeated Rochester Saints for the title bout on Monday.
“It was unbelievable,” said head coach Dan Cassno. “We’ve been talking about it all year about having our full roster of players, the full depth of our team contribute. And you see guys contribute in the ways that they did, every single guy contributing in the lineup, you can’t win it with just one guy.”
Long Island began the scoring close to halfway into the first period. Thomas Zocco connected on the power play to give the Gulls the lead.
“Rich Rucireto, our best faceoff guy, got a clean win back to Alex Bosland. We ran our play and I had a full lane. So, I just walked in and shot it and it went in,” said Zocco.
A few minutes later, the Gulls added to their lead when Griffin Erdman fired a shot from the right circle to make it 2-0.
The score remained 2-0 through the second period, but the Gulls were able to expand that lead to 4-0. The Bulldogs scored a goal late in the third, but after that, the Gulls limited the opposition’s chances.
“My message was just to stick with what we do well and stick to the game plan,” said Cassano. “We start with our d-zone. Defense leads to offense, speed coming back is going to lead to offense going the other way. We felt like if we did our job we could do well.”
Now the job continues as the battle of two unbeatens will meet up on Monday in the National Championship.
“This is like my second family here,” said Zocco. “We’ve been through so much so to be able to finish the job tomorrow would be the best.”
Christian Humphreys scored an overtime goal to propel the Rochester Saints to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Mission, and help the team advance to the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship on Monday. They will face undefeated Long Island.
“Obviously at the biggest stage, it’s a lot harder to score a goal like that,” said Humphreys. “It was a great play from Matthew Lee. He stripped him for the turnover and threw it out front to me. I was trying to shoot top left but the goalie took that away, so I fired it over the blocker. It was just a relief to see it go in.”
Rochester got off to a 1-0 lead late in the first period. Shortly after a Mission penalty expired, Lee gave the Saints the lead.
Lee, who had a three-point game, would add to his point total when he and Jack Plandowski assisted on captain Owen King’s power play tally.
The Mission would respond in the second period early on, but Rochester scored just 20 seconds later to improve its lead back to two goals.
In the third period, the Mission scored twice to tie the game at three.
Despite chances late in the game for both teams, the two squads headed to overtime. It was an eerily similar situation for the Saints against the same team. Though this particular Saints team didn’t make it to Nationals last year, the program squandered a two-goal lead and lost to the Mission in overtime just one year ago.
“We wanted it for them. These guys bought into everything we told them,” said head coach Dan Collins. “[Before overtime] I just reminded them where our chances came from and what we were doing that got us those chances. Just reminding them that we need to get back to that and that we will get those chances.”