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Joseph Pocrnic Lifts Tampa Bay Crunch to Youth Tier II 16U 2A National Championship

By Lary Bump, 04/07/24, 5:45PM MDT


Pocrnic scored his tournament-leading 13th goal in overtime to win the title.

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – Joseph Pocrnic looked up at the clock.

His Tampa Bay Crunch (FL) had been held in check for three periods and almost an entire overtime by the Montgomery Ice Devils (MD) in the 2A title game of the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships.

But Pocnic, who had a tournament-leading 12 goals heading into the final, could only be held back for so long.

“I got the puck in the middle of the ice, and I found the clock,” Pocrnic said. “There was only eight seconds left, so I had to hurry. My shot wasn’t on target, but luckily I was ready for the rebound and it came right to me.”

The puck bounced off the glass and out toward the ice. The scoreboard clock read 3.1 seconds left in overtime when Pocrnic stuffed the puck inside the right goalpost before Montgomery goalie Charles Forino could reach it.

Pocrnic finally had his first goal of the game, and the Crunch had their first national title.

Tampa Bay coach John Scoby’s four years leading the team had led to this moment.

“I had an opportunity to play in 14U Nationals in Tier I, so I knew what to expect, and we also had High School Nationals a few years ago,” he said. “We’ve been preparing the boys to play some big teams throughout the year to prepare ourselves.

“First time this organization has been to nationals, so it’s a very special moment.”

Tampa Bay wasn’t looking impressive early on. Kyle Metzler had given Montgomery a 2-0 advantage with goals in each of the first two periods.

“It was tough being down, but I knew that we could always come back, no matter how we were getting behind we could always come back,” Pocrnic said.

A resilient Tampa Bay squad did rally to tie the game with second-period goals by Paul Johnson and Collin Friedrich. However, the Ice Devils regained the lead when Levi Lustig scored at 14:15 of the second.

The Montgomery lead didn’t hold long. Johnson tied the game 1:01 into the third period with his second goal of the day.

Both goalies saw a lot of action in the long game, as Tampa Bay’s Brody Levering made 42 saves, while Forino had 32.

The Crunch are building an impressive program. In fact, they’ve been so successful that they may need to replace some of their top players.

“Our whole motto for this weekend was belief, that we could do it,” Scoby said. “Believe, and chasing down a dream, and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve worked hard, balancing school, high school hockey, travel hockey.

“We’ll try to get some of these kids back, but we’re hoping to get them to the junior programs. Their goal is to play higher-level hockey, we want to make sure we give them that opportunity.”

Now, they have the same level of belief that their coach has.

“They were down, but in between periods, they believed,” Scoby said. “They just did what they needed to get right.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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