INDIAN TRAL, N.C. — With the team snapshot taken, the players broke away Sunday and playfully paid homage to a Stanley Cup tradition.
Executing a “victory lap,” each member of the Ohio ’98 Selects enjoyed a moment with the gold plaque, raising it above his head. Most did some sort of improvised ice dance at Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, N.C.
The newly crowned Tier II 14-and-Under AAA champions of the 2013 USA Hockey National Championships appeared to make the most of the program’s first pennant.
Forward Tommy Nook clinched the 3-2 victory over the stunned St. Lawrence (N.Y.) Thunder with the game-winner one minute, 19 seconds into overtime.
“This is just so amazing,” Ohio defenseman Casper Yonel said. “Just amazing. Everything just came together.”
Early in the preliminary rounds, a loss to the Allen Park (Mich.) Huskies 98 made it look like Ohio’s tourney run would be cut short. Instead, it was a wake-up call, coach Joe Nook said.
“We got confidence after a couple of games and got [the jitters of playing at] nationals out of our system,” he said.
Ohio quickly rebounded to earn a win in its final pool play outing, qualifying for the playoffs. In the semifinals, Allen Park again stood in the way.
“And we came back,” Tommy Nook said with a grin. This time Ohio won 4-2.
During Sunday’s final, Yonel connected on a power-play goal, giving Ohio a 2-1 advantage with 23 seconds remaining in the second period.
“I just let it go,” Yonel explained.
The Thunder quickly countered and tied the game on forward Jordan Robert’s goal with one second to go.
“We felt pretty good at the point,” Thunder coach Bobby Smith said.
Both clubs were backed by solid goaltending. Ohio’s Chase Hunyadi collected 24 saves and St. Lawrence’s Noah Kermanyos had 26.
“Awesome game,” Smith said. “We went at it tooth and nail and someone had to lose.”
On the clinching goal, the younger Nook set up in front of the net and waited for the centering pass. He saw it coming, but it seemed to come slowly.
“I thought it was going to take forever,” Nook said. “It was the biggest goal of my life.”
Forward Joshua Norman also scored for Ohio.
Coach Nook said the way Ohio rebounded from the early tournament loss to Allen Park summed up the program’s first national championship run.
“I’ve never seen a group of boys come together the way they have,” he said. “They made a lot of sacrifices and take care of each other.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.