PITTSBURGH – Throw rankings and everything else out the window when Midwest rivals Chicago Mission and Michigan-based Detroit Honeybaked clash.
Chicago Mission and Honeybaked are each set on winning national titles at the 2013 USA Hockey National Championships for in Pittsburgh at the Tier-I 16 & Under tournament.
“We don’t care that we’re No. 1,” said Chicago Mission coach Chris Michael. “We care that we’re No. 1 come Sunday.”
Honeybaked won the 16U national championship in 2011, but after failing to advance out of the round robin portion of last year’s tournament, coach Robert Krohl’s team is primed to reach the top again.
“We have high expectations,” Krohl said. “We expect to win it. It’s an honor to come in with a high ranking, but let’s be honest, the rankings don’t matter, and the higher you’re ranked, the bigger the bulls eye.”
Chicago Mission and Honeybaked, who play in the same league, met three times, going 1-1-1 in those tilts before clashing again Thursday in Pittsburgh. Chicago Mission registered its second win of the season against Honeybaked, scoring three third-period goals for the 3-0 shutout.
“It’s been pretty even,” Michael said. “We know a lot about them and they know a lot about us. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Krohl felt Chicago outplayed his team.
“We didn’t deserve to win and they did,” Krohl said. “They dominated us in every aspect of the game.
“It definitely wasn’t our best effort, but you have to give credit to Chicago because they played great.”
Honeybaked has faced adversity before. Honeybaked trailed Belle Tire in a best-of-three series for the state championship before rallying for consecutive wins and a trip to Pittsburgh for the National Championships.
“There’s so much bad blood with these Detroit rivalries,” Krohl said. “Michigan is a tough district to win. I would almost go out on a limb and say it’s just as difficult to win the Michigan state championship as it is the national tournament; however, when you get to the national tournament you play a team like Chicago Mission.”
Chicago has a trio of players headed to the University of Notre Dame: defensemen Robert Nardella and Tory Dello along with forward Christian Fischer. But Nardella has been out since October with a knee injury.
“We made some mistakes early, and lost arguably our best defensemen, but our guys grew up very quickly,” Michael said. “We realized that not a lot of people get to do what you do, so enjoy what you’re doing and make the most of it.”
Chicago Mission certainly has done just that with a 49-11-4 record.
Honeybaked has been just as good with a 38-9-5 mark. Defenseman Zach Osburn committed to Michigan State, but he isn’t playing in the national championships after breaking his wrist in the state tournament.
“Obviously that’s huge,” Krohl said. “He’s our leader and he’s a very dynamic defenseman.”
With six of the top 11 16U teams in the country competing in Pittsburgh, Michael realizes Chicago has a difficult path ahead if it wants to win the national championship.
“It’s supposed to be like that,” Michael said. “If we’re going to be the best at the end of the day, we want to beat the best.”
Krohl and his Honeybaked team want to do the same.
“Chicago is a great team,” Krohl said. “You’re not going to win a national championship unless you beat Chicago Mission.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.