Whether it was an alert slide to the right followed by a quick poke away with his stick, or a glove save that would make any Major League Baseball shortstop proud, California Heat goaltender Tim Huxen was on the top of his game Sunday in the USA Hockey Tier II 12-Under 3A National Championship game.
That spelled big trouble for the Heat’s challengers in the tournament finale, the Red Bank Generals.
Huxen made every save he needed and then some, helping California defeat the New Jersey-based Generals 2-0 Sunday afternoon at Sharks Ice in San Jose.
The California Heat, a team based out of Valencia in Southern California, took a 1-0 lead in the first period and added an empty-netter late to secure the shutout win.
Huxen picked a fine time to post another shutout. It was his second shutout of the weekend and he led the 3A pool with 150 saves.
“[Huxen] has been steady for us from day one,” California Heat coach Sebastien Azra said. “He played great. The boys played a total team defense today. Defense is one of our strengths.”
California knew it would need plenty of ‘D’ in order to combat the second-highest scoring team in the 3A field.
The Generals scored 20 goals in the tournament. They outscored every team except the Heat, which scored 27 goals throughout its championship march.
Red Bank showcased a lot of speed early, but couldn’t find the shooting room necessary to light the scoring lamp. Instead, the Generals were forced to operate near the boards and fight for loose pucks and position down low.
With space in general hard to come by in either offensive zone, the Heat used a power play late in the first period to score the game’s first goal.
The puck flew around the zone on the California power play. Justin Driffill’s backdoor feed to teammate Geno Norraik Jr. gave California the 1-0 lead with under three minutes to go in the period.
Konner Gallagher also earned an assist on the play.
“These are the hardest working players I’ve ever coached in my 20 years of coaching,” Azra said. “It was a special group. We never doubted this group from the beginning. I always knew that they were capable of doing this.”
Brendan Ban, Timmy Clifton and Travis Yawger all had quality scoring chances for the Generals during the title tilt. Huxen just wouldn’t let one get past him.
“It feels so great because my dream came true,” Huxen said. “We just played hard. Before the game I told my defense to help me out when I needed it. Everyone played great today.”
Red Bank goaltender Logan Kramsky did everything he could to keep his team within reach. He allowed just six goals all tournament during his six starts.
However, the day belonged to the upstart bunch from California.
Cole Guttman put away the empty-net goal with 19 seconds left to ice the victory for the Heat. Bedlam ensued, ending with the Heat’s most important member on this day buried on the bottom of the happy pile of first place finishers.
Huxen pulled himself out of the madness in one piece then skated over to hoist his team’s championship banner.
It was an end to the Nationals journey that the 16 Heat team members, three assistant coaches and a proud head coach will never forget.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): Youth Tier-II