skip navigation

Orland Park Vikings Flip the Script in Youth Tier II 16U 3A Championship Game

By Lary Bump, 04/07/24, 5:15PM MDT


Despite not winning their state title, the Vikings finished off an undefeated run to the title

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas — It wasn’t just the contrast in styles that led the Orland Park Vikings (IL) to the title at the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U 3A National Championship

It was more like the Vikings beat the North Jersey Kings (NJ) at their own game.

Each team came into the championship game undefeated. Orland Park had scored 12 goals and allowed just five. North Jersey produced 33 goals while allowing 12.

The Vikings hadn’t scored more than three goals in any of their five games. The Kings hadn’t scored fewer than five.

So what led to Orland Park’s 5-2 win in the championship game?

The Vikings broke out early, when David Kundrat scored 4:33 into the game with an assist from Connor Kennedy. Then Logan Skocaj and Adam Ackerson scored unassisted in the second period for a 3-0 lead.

“All year, we’ve had all four lines going,” Vikings captain Jacob Purpura said. “Each guy contributes. My biggest contribution is that I always play as hard as I can. I have a hard forecheck. I get the boys going hard.”

The captain said he noticed a slight letdown late in the second period, when Jake McCloud, North Jersey’s leading scorer, put in his eighth goal of the tournament.

“There was a little stretch in the second period when we took a penalty,” Purpura said. “Things went a little downhill until we got going again.”

“I’m not as a big of a scorer as a lot of the team,” Purpura said, “like Mitch Gawel. He’s a great scorer.”

As if on cue, Gawel scored 21 seconds into the third period to restore the three-goal lead.

Vincent Crisafulli put in the game’s sixth goal to make it 4-2. But Orland Park’s Max Degan, who assisted on Gawel’s goal, put the icing on the celebratory cake with his team-high fourth goal with 23 seconds to play. Typical of the team’s play, five different players scored one goal each.

In his first year with Orland Park’s 16U team, veteran Vikings coach Nick Pollos shook off the remains of an ice-water bath from his players and said, “It’s just exciting to see the kids progress and see them come together as a group like that.”

He was not surprised by their success. 

“We’ve had a strong team,” he said. “We’ve been in the top five in the country most of the year. It’s a resilient group.”

However, Orland Park almost didn’t make it to nationals.

“We actually lost our state championship,” Pollos said. “We had some injuries, illness, so we were fortunate that there was an at-large bid available. We didn’t find out until 11 days before we were coming.”

Next season, Pollos will move with several of his players to 18U hockey. 

“Championships are great, but watching kids progress is greater,” he said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

More News: