KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In roller coaster of a game, the North Jersey Kings defeated the Allegheny Badgers, 7-6, to capture the 3A title at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships Monday morning in Western Michigan.
“Yesterday was tough and today was just a different game,” said head coach Steven Jones. “Everyone bought in and obviously the result shows it.”
After Jase Zangara opened the scoring three minutes into the first period, the Badgers would counter immediately. After Tyler Spears tied the game, 44 seconds later the Kings took the lead, Logan Pielech doubled the Badgers lead half a minute later.
Badgers defenseman Carter Remp tacked on another goal later in the period off a wrist shot from the point. The shot went through a group of bodies and past the glove hand of Salvatore Mirra as it fluttered into the top corner. Remp’s tally would give Allegheny a two-goal lead heading into the second period.
“I think we made a couple of mistakes early on that cost us,” said Kings head coach Steven Jones. “This team is relentless. The mentality is that we’re not going to score two goals on one shot, we chip away, we attack the lead and push things our way.”
The Kings stormed back in the second period, scoring four straight to begin the middle frame. Daniel Sharkey cut the deficit in half 33 seconds into the period and the Kings would score three more goals before the period was ten minutes old, including Zangara’s second of the game to make it 5-3.
Jones had high praise for Zangara, Ryan Van Zile and fellow linemate Jake McCloud after their performances Monday morning.
“The chemistry is unmatched,” said Jones. “The way they move the puck, the work ethic between the three of them, I’m proud of those guys for battling and giving us a chance.”
After giving up four straight goals, Badgers head coach Chris Lapiana decided to make a change in net, taking out Grant O’Brien and putting in Brock Pflugh. The Badgers would get one back with a Breckin Vilella goal with under two minutes left to go in the second period to make it a one-goal game heading into the third period.
The third period was nothing short of entertaining.
With just over ten minutes left in regulation, Zangara would get the hat trick goal, unassisted, to push the lead back to two. The goal was Zangara’s eighth of the weekend, which put him second overall in the 3A division in that department.
“All year he has been a big help,'' said Van Zile about Zangara. “He’s a good passer too, he just finds everyone. He has excellent hockey IQ and is an excellent player.”
The Badgers climbed back into the game when Drew Hall scoring his third goal of the competition with 6:05 left in the third period to make it 6-5 in favor of the Kings. After a Dante Taliani penalty put the Badgers down a man with 5:52 left, Allegheny rallied to tie the game.
After forward Shawn Sinclair skated the puck out of his own zone, a North Jersey defender fell in neutral ice, giving the Badgers a two-on-one opportunity while shorthanded. Sinclair drew the defender to him and fired the puck across the ice for Kyler Doran to slot it in the back of the net, tying the game 6-6.
“I just wanted us to keep our heads,” said Jones. “The ups and downs and momentum switches that happen during a hockey game is amazing. I wanted to make [Allegheny] go 200 feet to score a goal.”
After controlling most of the game, the Kings reclaimed the lead after Van Zile scored the game-winning goal with 3:44 left in the game. After a scramble in front of the Allegheny net, the puck found its way past the pads of Pflugh and into the back of the net, much to the dismay of the Allegheny bench.
“I saw it go in but I was just trying to bank it in off the goalie,” said Van Zile. “I didn’t have much puck luck earlier in the game, but the puck found my stick and I put it in.”
The Kings were able to hold onto the lead as Mirra stymied the last few Allegheny efforts for a late equalizer as they skated away as national champions.
“We worked so hard for it,” said Van Zile. “This was our goal and we create a big family here so I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.