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Momentum Swung in the Third for Nebraska Warbirds, Lifting Them to Youth Tier II 14U 1A Championship

By Russell Jaslow, 04/07/24, 1:15PM MDT


Houston Smith recorded three points to help the Warbirds defeat Team South Dakota on Sunday.

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Four unanswered goals — three in the third period — of the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 14U National Championships, gave the Nebraska Warbirds (NE) a 4-3 come from behind victory over Team South Dakota (SD) in the 1A title game.

“It was a great championship game,” Nebraska coach Jeff Hoggan said. “South Dakota came out hard. We were starting to show a little fatigue yesterday. We weren’t sharp in the first period.”

South Dakota initially took a 2-0 lead, scoring twice on the power play. A shot from the right side deflected on its way into the far side. Mason Diers was credited with the goal for his sixth of the tournament.

The teams traded goals 76 seconds apart in the second period. First Caden Herman scored unassisted with the man advantage, followed by a penalty of their own, allowing Nebraska to get on the scoreboard with their own power play goal, scored by Houston Smith.

“Penalties killed us,” South Dakota coach Lucas Deutsch said. “The power play goals that they got put a dagger in us. We didn’t take many all week.”

Then, the third period floodgates opened for the Warbirds.

“[You] could see the momentum,” Hoggan said. “They wanted it. Our guys came out and found a way.”

Cole Brown started the barrage at 2:30 with a backhander from the right side. Harper Jones added another power play goal from the high slot through a crowd at 6:11. At 7:48, it was Nehemiah O’Brien from in close, redirecting a pass into the net. Suddenly, Nebraska led 4-2.

“The whole game, coaches have been on me to shoot the puck. So, I got a pass, so I just looked up. It was wide open, so I shot it,” Jones said of his goal. “I couldn’t really see, but then everyone just came running to me.”

Jones and Smith assisted on each other’s goals. No surprise considering how long the two have played together.

“I’ve been with him since I started hockey,” Jones said. “He’s a really good friend of mine. We started in Sioux City, Iowa and we played with each other since. We joined this team together, so there’s a lot of chemistry there.”

This win was a full team performance, though, as Hoggan pointed out. 

“Just speaks to our group, being resilient, never quit, never give up, kind of the mindset,” he said. “Everybody contributed.”

But South Dakota wasn’t giving up either. With 3:12 left, a shot from the right point sailed high into the upper opposite corner. Nebraska was looking for a high stick, but Brody Cathcart was credited with the goal.

South Dakota pulled their goalie with a minute to go, had two excellent chances, including a scramble in the crease in the final seconds, but Nebraska hung on.

 “I’m super proud of our guys from where we were at the beginning of the season,” Deutsch said. “We battled hard.”

The Warbirds have been a community involvement success story back in Fremont, Nebraska. Now that they won the national championship, it goes beyond that.

 “It’s not just our community,” Hoggan said. “A lot of proud Nebraskans seeing our success. A lot of people take satisfaction in that.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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