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St. Clair Shores Saints Rally For Youth Tier II 18U 3A National Title

By Tom Robinson, 04/07/24, 5:30PM MDT


The Saints overcome 3-0 deficit to win with 36 seconds left in regulation.

DELMONT, Pa. — St. Clair Shores Saints (MI) had trouble holding significant leads Wednesday through Sunday in the 3A division of the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships.

Fortunately for the Saints, they did not have much difficulty facing deficits.

After five straight victories, four by a single goal and the last two filled with adventure, the Saints claimed the final championship on the line at Palmer Imaging Arena when they rallied past the Cheektowaga Warriors (NY) 4-3 on Sunday.

The team reunited two weeks ago after playing its schedule late summer and early fall, then separating for high school seasons. Getting prepared for nationals was further delayed by senior and spring break trips, but the Saints did not let anything stop them.

“None of us have the chemistry from playing with each other,” said Dominic Riggio, who scored in the championship game. “We all come back from our own deals and reunite. Our motto is always being a grinding team.

“We have skill, but what we’re known for is grinding out that third period, coming back or trying to maintain a lead. It gets too close sometimes, but we always dig, and we always find a way.”

That way in pool play was recovering from a 4-2 loss to the Reston Raiders (VA) in the opener to win the two games necessary to advance into elimination play. They led 4-0 and 4-1 in what became a pair of one-goal victories.

Colton Fuqua’s second goal of game, shorthanded with 18 seconds remaining, clinched a 5-3 quarterfinal win over the Green Bay Bobcats.

“We just played together as a group,” Fuqua said. “We never quit. There’s a lot of teams that would give up being down in the semifinals of the national championship.

“We knew we had it in us.”

St. Clair Shores came from two down in the third period in each of the last two games. The Saints faced that deficit with less than six minutes remaining in the semifinal, then scored twice in 27 seconds to force overtime where they beat the West Dundee Leafs (IL) 5-4.

“It’s a very resilient group of kids,” coach Jeff Robbins said.

Ian Lancaster went top shelf from a tough angle for the overtime winner to send the team to Sunday’s final.

Anderson Tigges started and finished the three-goal third period in the final, as he scored the winner with 36 seconds left.

“I was just crashing the net,” he said.

St. Clair kept the pressure on, not allowing Cheektowaga to get its goaltender pulled until 10 seconds left. However, the Saints still needed a 38th Maksim Johns save, on a wrist shot from the circle, with four seconds left to secure the title.

“Perseverance,” defenseman and team captain Gabriel Russo said. “We all love each other. We all work together. We know we’re a championship team.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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