KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A strong third period was enough to see Team South Dakota skate away with the 2A title at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships as they defeated the Alaska Oilers, 6-3, Monday morning. It was the first national championship for the program in the Tier II 14U Nationals history.
“We knew they were going to be a tough test,” said Team South Dakota head coach Ben Prisbe. “We played them the first game of the tournament and it was a close game. We knew there was going to be some pockets of adversity.”
Team South Dakota started the game strong, opening the scoring with under ten minutes to play. Cameron Ritter scored his sixth goal of the competition off an assist from Carter Sanderson to give Team South Dakota the lead. Carson Myhre would double the team’s lead five minutes later while shorthanded.
“Everyone worked together to a common goal,” said defenseman Beckett Rothrock. “Once our team works together, that’s what happens. You win a national championship.”
Sanderson had the lone assist on Myhre’s short-handed tally and Team South Dakota held a 9-3 shot advantage after the first period.
The Oilers would cut into the South Dakota lead with a power play tally by Landon Macswain 20 seconds into the second period. After both teams traded chances for a majority of the second period, the Oilers would tie the game with Gordon Jennings’ first goal of the competition with 5:14 left in the period.
With 32 seconds left before second intermission, Team South Dakota reclaimed the lead with Ritter’s second goal of the game, unassisted. Though the Oilers would outshoot Team South Dakota, 9-7, in the period, Team South Dakota took a 3-2 lead heading into the final period.
“With the third period we just stuck to our game plan,” said Prisbe. “We forechecked hard, defended well and we got the job done.”
Myhre’s fifth goal of the weekend pushed Team South Dakota’s lead to two with 13:29 left in the third period. After penalties marred the beginning of the period, Myhre was able to utilize the open ice and beat Alaska netminder Gunnar Bergo to make it 4-2 in what would be the eventual game-winning goal.
“[The thought was] to celebrate really hard,” said Myhre after scoring the game-winning goal. “Hope we don’t get scored on and go win.”
Jace Appelhans cut the Team South Dakota lead to one with 6:44 remaining, giving the Oilers a chance to tie it late in regulation. Appelhans was instrumental in Alaska's 3-2 victory over the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights in Sunday’s 2A semifinal, with both of his goals being game-tying goals.
However, Colton Merchen extended the Team South Dakota lead back to two just 1:23 later. Merchen, whose sixth goal of the competition was assisted by Riley Linstad, was able to beat Bergo and made it 5-3 South Dakota with just over five minutes left in the game.
Sanderson tacked on an empty-net goal to earn his third point of the night with 51 seconds left in regulation. Sanderson’s sixth goal of the competition made it 6-3 for Team South Dakota as they would hold on for the final minute of regulation to win their first 14U title in program history.
“These kids came together all week and they’re all great kids,” said Prisbe. “It’s a special group and watching them yard sale and celebrate together, that’s what coaching is all about. I’m truly proud of them.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.