PLYMOUTH, Minn. — An unassisted, short-handed goal from CJ Watroba sealed a 1-0 win over the Brookings Rangers (S.D.) on Friday for the Springfield Jr. Thunderbirds (Mass.) in the preliminary round of the Chipotle-USA Hockey High School Division I National Championships.
Those two sides met again in Monday’s championship game, and the end result stayed the same, as the Thunderbirds were able to come out on top in more comfortable fashion, securing the title with a 5-1 win.
The main difference between the championship game and the win against Brookings on Friday was the players’ mindset coming into the game, according to Springfield coach Mickey Foley.
“I really just think they bought into the game plan,” Foley said. “We came in knowing that we had to play against a really good team and they played the best they possibly could from top down. Every guy bought in.”
Just like in Friday’s win, it was Watroba who opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds, as he scored his fifth goal of the tournament to give his side the lead a little more than five minutes into the game. He then scored his sixth goal with 1:58 left in the second to give the Firebirds the 5-1 lead they would see out to the final horn.
His second goal came on a power play, which was the second goal the Thunderbirds scored with a man advantage in the second period. That was a big reason the Firebirds were able to take over the game before the second intermission.
“We were disciplined, stayed out of the box and capitalized on the opportunities that they gave us,” Watroba said.
This title caps off a hectic two weeks for the Thunderbirds. They won their state championship the weekend before Nationals, then won six games in five days on their way to the title.
“They had a long season and put in the work all season long and I think that’s helped with the endurance throughout this tournament,” Foley said.
All of that hard work paid off for Springfield, as its season came to a perfect ending.
“We’re a tight group of guys,” Watroba said. “We won the state championship back home, so it’s really good to end the season on a high note with a national championship.”
The win should also help make the travel back home a bit easier. Foley said his team would be able to celebrate in the arena for a few hours before having to catch a flight back to Massachusetts. He called it a quick business trip and said he was proud that his team was able to achieve its goal on the trip.
For Watroba, he can enjoy the flight back as a national champion before reality sets in tomorrow and he’s back in class.
“It’s going to be fun I hope,” he said of the flight back home. “School tomorrow should be fun too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.