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Never-say-die Honeybaked makes LA Selects its final conquest in claiming Tier I 14-U National crown

By John Hakes, 04/11/10, 2:00PM MDT


For all the anxiety that accompanies winner-takes-all overtime games, the Honeybaked Tier I 14 & Under team seems to flourish in them.

Less than 24 hours after advancing to the title game by virtue of an overtime win, the Detroit-based squad did it again in Sunday’s USA Hockey Tier I 14-U National Championship, topping the L.A. Selects 3-2 at the Amherst Ice Center in Williamsville, N.Y.

Adam Ulsfax buried a centering feed at the top edge of the crease just 31 seconds into the extra period, sending his team into a frenzied celebration and its first USA Hockey National title. The assist fittingly went to Alex Robert, whose overtime marker on Saturday against Westchester got Honeybaked to the championship game.

It was an abrupt end to an instant classic USA Hockey youth title contest, a fast-paced affair that kept players, coaches and fans alike at the edge of their seats for 48 minutes.

“I was just going to the net, (Robert) threw it out in front and I just tried to get it on the net,” said a beaming Ulsfax, still in the euphoria of the moment. “It feels great.”

Just keeping the game close would’ve been considered an accomplishment, given the Honeybaked’s opponent. The Pacific District champion Selects bulldozed their way to a 5-0 record in tournament play, using their blend of speed, strength and offense to outscore their opponents 42-3 heading into Sunday afternoon.

In contrast, Honeybaked lost its opener April 7 and advanced by winning close round-robin games over Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Central Massachusetts and Westchester.

“A lot of people thought we were struggling in the round robin, but we got through that to make it,” Honeybaked coach Larry Knapp said. “We thought if we could get to the weekend that our chances were pretty good.”

Their chances seemed to take a downward turn when LA opened the scoring, even after Honeybaked controlled play early. Selects forward Andrew Oglevie scooped in the rebound of Chase Deleo’s shot at 7:14 of the first period after the puck was mishandled in front of the Honeybaked net.

Another potential LA rout was averted when Honeybaked knotted it 1-1 a few minutes later. Captain Evan Allen surged down the left wing and centered a pass to Alex Smith, whose shot caromed off an LA stick and fluttered past Selects goalie Eric Comrie. The goal came just three seconds after a successful Honeybaked penalty kill.

Both Comrie (21 saves) and his counterpart, Ian Jenkins (22 saves), made some acrobatic stops for their squads, somehow keeping a game dictated by offense and quality scoring chances from becoming a goal-fest. Comrie was tested several times on third-period Honeybaked power plays but came through each time.

But Blake Gober cracked the LA armor with a second-period goal that gave Honeybaked a 2-1 edge early in the second period. The Colleyville, Texas native raced down the right wing and toward the net before shoveling the puck between Comrie’s pads with 10:19 left to go in the middle frame.

Meanwhile, LA’s scoring juggernaut was being held in check by a strong Honeybaked forecheck and Knapp’s plans to take the middle of the ice away from the Selects.

“They have two very powerful lines and their third line’s no slouch either,” Knapp said. “We decided to pack the middle of the ice, try to keep them to the outside, and chip it to the hashmarks and break out. They had their chances but we limited them.”

But the Selects wouldn’t be denied for too long, converting a textbook deflection to tie it 2-2 with four minutes left in the second. Charles Siroky, parked 12 feet from the net, deftly redirected a Scott Savage point shot over Jenkins’ left shoulder for the equalizer.

LA coach Rick Kelly reassured his troops after the game.

“I told them to keep their heads high and learn from it,” he said. “We made mistakes as coaches today, they made mistakes as players, and that’s what it’s all about: learning the game, learning the life lessons like these. It’s very valuable to these boys.”

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.