Game 1 of a juicy USA Hockey 12-Under boys Tier II National Championship tripleheader turned out to be an instant classic.
After three periods couldn’t settle things between the Oklahoma City Oil Kings and the Charlotte Jr. Checkers, the two teams headed to a 10-minute sudden death overtime period.
Nearly three minutes in, Oklahoma City forward Hunter Best ended his season in style, banging in a loose rebound to give Oklahoma City a 3-2 victory in the 1A final Sunday at Sharks Ice in San Jose.
The Oil Kings rallied from a 2-1 deficit heading into the final 15 minutes of play. A power-play goal from goal-scoring machine Tyr Thompson tied the game at 2 with a little more than seven minutes left to play in regulation.
In the overtime session, the momentum stayed in the Oil Kings’ corner. With the puck in tow, Thompson burst down the left side and fired a hot shot off the Checkers’ goaltender. The puck bounced onto the stick of an alert Best. The winger made the most of his chance and tapped in the clincher.
“I was just in shock,” Best said after his team’s postgame celebration. “I just headed towards the net. Tyr Thompson shot the puck and it bounced off the goalie’s pads right towards me.”
The USA Hockey Tier II 12-U National Championships wrapped up Sunday with three title tilts in the 1A, 2A and 3A divisions. Division size is based on player enrollment in the specific hockey program. More than 700 athletes from 34 teams across the nation traveled to San Jose this week to compete in the National Championships.
Oklahoma City came into Sunday’s final with a 4-1 record in the tournament, spurred by the sensational scoring duo of Thompson and Alexander Frye.
The Checkers’ defense, headlined by top defender Bradley Ingersoll, kept a close eye on the Oil Kings’ top scorers in the final.
“They played my top two scorers pretty tough,” Oil Kings coach Tom Frye said. “They definitely made them work, but they were still able to get a couple points.”
Alexander Frye, the coach’s son, made his father proud early with the goal of the day. Frye flew coast-to-coast, taking the quickest route possible toward the Checkers’ net on an Oil Kings power play.
After dancing through three defenders in the middle of the zone, Frye lifted a wrist shot into the top right corner to put Oklahoma City ahead 1-0 four minutes into the game.
Oklahoma City looked like the superior team in the game’s first 10 minutes, but a nifty play from behind the net got the Checkers right back into the game.
Jermey Reiser won a loose puck behind the net and wrapped in a sneaky goal to even the score at 1 with 1:13 left in the first period.
Charlotte forward Kyle Moore turned up the heat even more during a fast-paced second period. Moore’s first shot bounced off the leg pad of the goaltender, but the backhand follow found the back of the net, giving the Checkers at 2-1 advantage after two periods.
“I reminded them after the second period that this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Coach Frye said. “I told them to not hold back and they did just that. It caps off a great year. Overtime win in the finals. How can you beat that?”
Both goaltenders, Charlotte’s Spencer Krul and the Oil Kings’ Blues Fickenscher, seemed to match each other save-for-save down the stretch.
“It’s just been a tough season,” Best said. “We’ve always worked on conditioning. That’s how we pulled it out today.”
Oklahoma City went 5-1 in the tournament, including a 3-1 run in pool play. Its lone loss was against Delaware.
Tag(s): Youth Tier-II