Stephen Pack sure picked the right time to score his first goals of the USA Hockey Tier II 14 & Under National Championship at the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J.
Pack tallied a natural hat trick, including two empty-net goals, to break open a tie game in the third period and lift the Indianapolis Racers to a 7-4 win over the Gulf Coast (Fla.) Flames in Sunday’s 3A Conference championship game.
Pack, who had 10 assists entering the game but had yet to score a goal, broke a 4-4 tie with just more than seven minutes remaining in regulation when he blasted the puck inside the far post.
“I looked up and saw an opening,” Pack recalled. “I put my head down and shot it as hard as I could, and it went in.”
Pack added an empty-net goal with 1:16 left, and then finished off his first hat trick of the campaign just 29 seconds later with yet another empty-netter. He also registered one assist on the afternoon.
“I didn’t even know they had pulled their goalie (again),” Pack said. “I was trying to get it out of the zone and go off on a change, and I’m lucky it went in. I never jumped so high as when I scored that third goal.”
“It was a great effort by everybody this whole week, and our team never quit,” said Indianapolis coach Mario Doyon, a former NHL player with Chicago and Quebec. “(We told them) work hard and good things will happen, and obviously it worked out.”
The Racers went 3-for-4 on the power play, while getting 30 saves in net from Jack Slifer. Reid Simpson stopped 29 shots for the Flames, who connected on their only man-advantage attempt of the afternoon.
“You need good goaltending to win championships, and we had it all week long,” Doyon said.
This was the only meeting of the tournament between the two clubs, who both went 5-0 prior to the title game.
“I’m very proud,” Gulf Coast coach Fred Eaton said. “It was a tight game, and we had to pull our goalie.”
Indianapolis’ Drew Doyon and Gulf Coast’s Jared Goudreau traded goals in the opening eight minutes of play, before the Racers’ Ryan Murphy scored with 5:14 left off a pass from the right wing boards by Ryan Cason. Joshua Feeley then knotted matters with 52 seconds left in the first period, after Slifer had lost his stick.
Murphy made it 3-2 early in the second stanza on a power play, before Joey Fabec pulled Gulf Coast even with 7:40 left. The Flames then took a 4-3 lead with 1:50 left on Fabec’s second goal, this time off of a rebound in front, before Indianapolis tied it with just 14 seconds remaining in the period on a rebound goal by Joe Chitwood.
Then came Pack’s third-period heroics.
“We gave it a shot,” Eaton said. “They got two roll-ins (on an empty net), and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Gulf Coast has a heck of a team,” Doyon said. “They battled, and we were lucky to come out on top.”
Gulf Coast, which won the Tier II 12-U National title two years ago with many of the same players on this year’s club, expects to be back in the future.
“Our goal was to reach nationals, and our kids worked hard,” Eaton said. “We had a good season, and the core of this team should be together next year.”
Pack called winning a National title the greatest feeling he’s had so far.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” he smiled. “Probably tonight.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 14 & Under