Even though the last five minutes or so were played at even strength, it certainly felt like Michigan’s Summit Plastics was in penalty-kill mode, trying to fend off advance after advance while nursing a one-goal lead over the Texas Tornado.
Just like they did when they were actually shorthanded during the game, Michigan’s champions came through.
Summit Plastics killed off all six penalties they faced and stood tall under third-period pressure, and captain Jake Howie delivered a goal and an assist in a game-changing second period to help his team capture the USA Hockey Tier II 16-Under 3A National Championship with a 2-1 victory over the Tornado Sunday afternoon at Skate Quest Ice Rink in Reston, Va.
Chance Summers got the Tornado on the board with 4:51 remaining. That goal sliced the Texans’ deficit in half and sett the stage for a tense and frenzied end to a physical, evenly played game.
“It looked like [a penalty kill],” Summit Plastics coach Steve Glover said. “We respected them, and they kept coming at us and we were sitting back on the defensive, because we were killing penalties most of the game, and that just gave them momentum.”
Special-teams play determined the outcome of the 3A title, as the Tornado was flustered on all of its power-play opportunities. Texas didn’t help its own cause by twice committing penalties of its own after receiving the man advantage just seconds earlier.
“That was very frustrating for us,” Tornado coach Tom Murphy said. “We had no success in the power play today. If you’re going to be a championship team, you have to have success on the power play.”
Summit Plastics did just that to open the scoring in the pivotal second period.
Just 18 seconds after going up a man, Summit Plastics capitalized. Howie slid a cross-ice pass from the left to the far post, where Sly Sutter stood and wristed home the goal with 14:31 left in the period.
“The puck came down to me, they didn’t cover [Sutter] back door and you have to slide it across to him,” Howie said. “He buried it.”
Howie buried one of his own at even strength about six minutes later, intercepting an attempted clearance from a Tornado defender, carrying into the offensive zone and going five hole on goalie A.J. Smith (23 saves) to double Summit Plastics’ lead.
“I could tell the defender was coming back to his forehand,” Howie said. “He was on his backhand, and you just knew he was going to come back to his strong side and try and get it out, but he didn’t even turn and look. He just fired up the middle, and I was right there to pick it off.”
In a game laced with big hits and physical play, the diminutive Howie stood the tallest. His clutch playmaking ability is a big reason why the 3A championship plaque is heading north to Fraser, Mich.
“Jake just works his butt off,” Glover said. “Not many people believe in him because of his size, but it doesn’t stop him. He doesn’t stop moving and doesn’t stop working. Everybody looks up to him, and he wears that captain patch with pride because of his work ethic. He’s got a knack for the net, and he reads plays very well.”
Howie (four goals, nine assists) and teammate Brandon Hawkins (six goals, seven assists) led the 3A pool with 13 points apiece, besting Texas’ Conner Bebb (six goals, five assists) by two.
Summit Plastics goalie Cameron Johnson was another hero for the newly crowned national champions. He allowed just one goal on 85 shots in 204 minutes over the course of five games. Summers, who finished into an empty net after a fortuitous bounce off the boards gave him a clean look at the net, was the only player to beat Johnson all tournament.
Texas’ Mason Weis almost did on two occasions Sunday, but Johnson came up with big saves on Weis’ breakaways in the first and third periods.
Johnson -- along with the rest of his teammates -- was also flawless while Summit Plastics was shorthanded.
“We practiced quite a bit all year doing penalties,” Glover said. “We’re a very aggressive hockey team, and we do take our share. 5-on-5 it was just an even game. We scored on our power play and we killed off their penalties. That was the game as far as I’m concerned.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 16 & Under