TROY, Mich. — The Greensboro (N.C.) Stars made local history on Sunday when they beat the Nashville Jr. Predators 5-1 to claim the city’s first USA Hockey national title at the Tier II 16-and-Under A national championships at the Troy Sports Center in Troy, Mich.
Greensboro had a good season this year, but before the squad could qualify for the nationals championships it had to beat the Jr. Hurricanes twice in one day just to get past the districts.
Greensboro won the first game against the Jr. Hurricanes in the morning but trailed in the second game by a 3-1 count after one period later that afternoon. The Stars were able to tie the game, but they needed to win outright to advance.
“There was only 13 seconds left when we forced a face off deep in their end,” recalls coach Steve Sabo. “So I called a time out and told the guys to get as many bodies in front of the net.”
The face off was won by Greensboro and a point shot was stopped, but the Stars were able to put the rebound into the net to win in dramatic fashion.
The Stars got off to a rocky start this week at nationals, losing their first game before regrouping and finishing with back-to-back wins that put them in the playoff round. Despite their underdog status, the Stars continued to amaze with a 6-2 quarterfinal win over the KPHA (Alaska) Ice Hawks before disposing Team South Dakota by the same score to advance to the finals.
The team’s top line shined like Stars in the title game as Joshua Hamilton scored two goals and added an assist, Owen Harris contributed a goal and two assists and Austin Chase Lewis chipped in with a pair of helpers. Joshua Butterworth had a multiple night as well, with a goal and an assist. Nicholas Gustafson scored as well.
“We’ve been doing it that all year,” Hamilton said. “We just try to carry the load. The three of us [Harris and Lewis] have been together since Squirts and we just have this great chemistry.”
Greensboro out shot Nashville, 42-28. The Stars led 2-1 after one and 4-1 after two periods.
Stars goaltender Clayton Pierce III was almost unbeatable, turning aside 32 of 33 Nashville shots.
Michael Kessler did all he could do in goal for Nashville, as he registered 27 saves and was under siege through out the contest. Trey Pefanis scored the lone Nashville goal with assists from Matt Chalkley and Jacob Spychalski.
Sabo had a simple game plan and the team bought in.
“We continued to use the plan during the championship tournament week that was so successful for us this year,” Sabo said. “Just out-skate the opposition. Get pucks deep and try to cycle the puck down low and wear down their defensemen.”
Sabo was unsure what the city of Greensboro had in store for the team when it returned. No doubt the Stars will probably get the rock star treatment, with a memory that will last a lifetime.
“I can’t say enough of how proud I am of the guys,” he said. “It’s been a real special year and just a great group of kids and the parents have been really supportive. It’s hard to put into words; once again I am so proud of everyone that was a part of this national championship.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.