LITTLETON, Colo. — All the way back on Thursday, the Atlanta Fire (GA) opened their time at the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships with a disheartening 4-1 loss to Team Wyoming (WY).
Since that moment, they won game after game in the 1A division, scoring at least three goals in each. By Monday, they capped their most important winning streak of the season at five games with a 7-1 victory over the Omaha Jr. Mavericks (NE) at the Edge Ice Arena in Littleton, Colorado.
“For them, it’s all about staying positive,” Fire coach Steve Jacobs said. “There are always ups and downs throughout these crazy weekends. They remained positive and showed character throughout the weekend and I couldn’t be more proud about how they stuck with the plan and just grinded it out. A lot of character guys, for sure.”
The teams traded goals in the first period, with Omaha’s Evan Larson lighting the lamp with 8:22 left in the first period. Seven minutes later, Atlanta’s Zach Iannone answered with a score of his own to make it 1-1.
From there, it was all Fire, starting with Grey Altemeyer’s tally three minutes into the second period. After a roughing penalty assessed against the Mavericks, Iannone found the net once again to double Atlanta’s lead. Only 13 seconds later, Brayden Bowes scored to give the Fire a comfortable lead.
Omaha had a new goalie in net late in the second period and for the entire third, but it didn’t matter. Altemeyer opened the final frame with a goal and, after eight minutes of scoreless hockey, Denis Chebeleu hammered home another tally. A roughing penalty in the game’s final moments gave Atlanta one last powerplay, which Aaron Pritikin used to convert one more goal.
“I’m super hyped because we’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season,” said Iannone, who along with Altemeyer, led the Fire in scoring during the tournament. “We really started to work as a team and were able to move the puck a lot.”
Jacobs said the offense was focused on puck movement and speed against their larger opponents.
“We talked about moving the pass quick and moving zones quick,” he said. “We didn’t want to overthink things because hockey is such a simple game. We wanted to play our game and play fast because we’re a smaller team, so we have to play fast against these bigger guys. They committed to it and saw the success from there.”
Atlanta’s offensive success was clear, but the defensive success was equally impressive. Omaha was the top scoring team at the tournament across all three divisions, converting 37 goals as they went undefeated through their first five games.
The Fire’s defense, however, proved to be too much.
“The defense did great,” Jacobs said. “We knew playing our game and sticking with what we were doing was working. We didn’t want to give their guys any space at all. And I love our goalies. The goalies got us here and they were great all weekend.”
Ryder Robinson was the Fire’s mainstay in goal for the championship, and posted a 25-save performance in the victory.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.