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Richmond Royals bring home first National Championship

By Chris Peters, 04/06/11, 2:15PM MDT


Richmond, Va., isn’t known as a hockey hotbed, but it is now the home of the 2011 USA Hockey Tier-II 18-Under 2A national champion. The Richmond Royals downed the Allegheny (Pa.) Badgers 4-2 in the championship game in Gates Mills, Ohio, on April 3 to earn its first-ever title.

The Royals jumped on the Badgers early. Patrick Hermans opened the scoring with a goal 5:31 into the game. Richmond added two more tallies before the first 20 minutes were up, with Kyle Jahn and Nick Varner adding late-period goals.

“We came out flying,” Richmond coach Ed Shulman said. “Individually, we’re not a great team. The teams we played had much better skill players, individually. But collectively we really have an outstanding team.”

Despite the 3-0 deficit, Allegheny battled back with a pair of unanswered goals in the second period. Dillon Weaver scored 5:29 into the middle frame, while Daniel Maier put one past Richmond netminder Eric Dumas with 7:17 remaining in the period.

With the Royals reeling heading into the third period, Shulman tried to maintain a positive attitude in the dressing room between periods. The coach also decided to switch the team’s forechecking scheme to stifle Allegheny’s momentum.

“I think we just stopped doing what we do best,” Shulman said. “I didn’t want to discuss anything negative. We didn’t do too many positive things in the second period. So I told them we’ve got to go back to what we do best.”

In the third, the Royals didn’t allow the Badgers a chance to keep the offense going.

With 5:02 to play in regulation Austin Carter took a feed from Steven Valva and put the puck past Allegheny goalie Anthony Fanelli to provide all the insurance the Royals needed.

The change in strategy and positive reinforcement between periods paid off for the Royals as the team celebrated its first-ever national title.

“It was one of our perfect games. Four different guys scored goals and our goalie made great saves when he had to,” said Shulman, who guided the Royals to the bronze medal at last year’s National Championship.

Shulman cited Valva and Cory Gillespie as two of the players who might not have shown up on the scoresheet much, but were integral parts of the team. He also gave credit to his goaltender Eric Dumas, who, according to Shulman, had been solid all season long.

While the team was excited it had accomplished its season-long goal, Shulman was a bit surprised by the demeanor in the locker room after the game.

“It was an interesting reaction,” he said. “There was whooping and hollering, but for some of our players this was their last game as a Richmond Royal. It was a bittersweet moment because their Richmond Royals career was over. This was a perfect ending to their Royals career and a great jumping-off point for the rest of their careers.”

While a few players’ careers ended that day, Shulman feels that his team’s success will only help hockey in Richmond continue to grow and improve.

“This has really helped Richmond hockey,” he said. “More quality teams will want to play us and come to Richmond. That helps our organization. That’s just going to help hockey grow in Richmond.”

Additionally, Shulman, who referred to Richmond as being on a bit of a “hockey island,” feels that the national title was a sort of validation for the sport in the area.

“[Winning showed] even Richmond can develop talented hockey players and have them continue their careers after they leave,” he said.

With a bright future ahead for hockey in Richmond, the 2011 National Champions will always have a place in local hockey lore.

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.