The Chesterfield Falcons won their second USA Hockey National Championship in the last three years with a 7-2 victory over the Illinois #2 Sabres in the Tier II 18 & Under Conference 3A title game on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y.
“Our mantra all season long was: Keep it close in the first. Take over in the second. Dominate the third,” Chesterfield coach Lindsay Middlebrook said.
The Falcons carried that strategy out to the letter in the Nationals. The team scored just four first-period goals in the tournament, and three of those were in the championship game. The semifinal and final games were the only ones that Chesterfield led after the first period.
The Falcons scored eight second-period goals in the Nationals and led four of their six games after two periods, including a 4-1 lead entering the final period on Sunday.
The third period is what made Chesterfield a champion. The Falcons scored 14 goals in the final frame over the week, more than the first two periods combined. Even more impressive, the goal scored by the Sabres on Sunday was only the second third-period goal the Falcons allowed in Nationals.
Chesterfield’s third-period heroics included a Jake Wynd goal with 41 seconds to play to beat the Texas Aces 1-0 in the opening game of pool play.
After a 4-0 shutout of the California Wave, Chesterfield scored five unanswered goals in the third period to break open a tie game and beat the Alaska Northern Knights 7-2.
In Saturday’s quarterfinals, Chesterfield scored twice in the final five minutes to beat Orchard Lake (Mich.) 3-1. In Saturday night’s semis, they scored twice in the third period to break a tie with Team Michiana, winning 4-2.
In the National Championship game, the Falcons scored three times in the final frame to put away the Sabres.
“They exemplify why you have a team,” Middlebrook said. “Lots of teams have 20 kids that are good hockey players. We had 20 great ones. We had four lines. We had six defenders. Everybody was good enough to play regularly. I’d estimate that 70 to 80 percent of our wins came in the third period this year. I just tell them to keep the faith and keep believing in the system.”
“Even when we were down, we had faith that our depth would take over,” he continued. “This week, we got goals from guys that might not be our key goal scorers or go-to guys. That’s what depth does for you. You can’t play six games in four or five days with a short bench.”
Jay Mosley got the scoring started for Chesterfield with help from Sean Lamb two minutes into the game. When Illinois #2’s Anthony Rohde responded 90 seconds later to tie the score, Middlebrook’s system got put to the test.
“I let that first goal in,” said goalie Mitch Fernsler, who had 39 saves on the day and 82 for the tournament. “I started to get a little worried, but then our defense stepped up. I played pretty well after that, and the guys just kept putting pucks in the net.”
Illinois #2’s last stand may have come late in the second period. Trailing 4-1, the Sabres spent almost all of the final five minutes on the power play, including a five-on-three for part of the time. Fernsler and the Falcons were able to kill everything off without any damage, however.
“Anytime you have a penalty kill like that, it gives a lot of confidence to the players on the bench,” Chesterfield assistant coach Titus Dare said. “The guys on the bench were chomping at the bit, getting ready for their next shifts.”
“Definitely when you kill off a five-on-three, that’s a major confidence builder,” Fernsler said. “We knew after that the boys would get it done.”
“Let’s just say that we felt a lot more confident at the end of the second period,” Dare agreed.
Especially with the third period about to begin.
That’s where Chesterfield dominates.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Tag(s): 18 & Under