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Youth Tier-II 14U 2A: Affton celebrates — and celebrates — national title

By Jeff Hawkins - Special to, 04/08/13, 5:30PM MDT


INDIAN TRAL, N.C. –The Affton (Mo.) Americans knew how to celebrate.

Several minutes after receiving their gold medals Sunday for placing first at the 2013 USA Hockey Tier II 14-and-Under AA national championships, players, coaches, family and friends found numerous creative ways to immortalize the moment.

There were team photos and more team photos: individual and group stills and action shots. Finally, tournament officials started pointing at their watches. The Zamboni was ready to ride.

The Americans, who captured the first of three 14U title matches Sunday at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, N.C, obviously wanted to enjoy, as long as possible, their dominating performance.

Affton scored three first-period goals Sunday and cruised to a 7-0 victory over the younger Alaska All-Stars in the AA final. The Americans outscored their opponents 49-4 during the five matches.

The national title is the Americans’ second in a row after falling in overtime of the finals in 2011. Cameron Cox was the lone Affton player to dress for back-to-back championships.

“We were ready for this,” said Cox, who registered a goal and an assist Sunday. “It’s amazing. There is no greater feeling.”

Affton coach Matt Ocello said the national championship is the program’s sixth, and it developed during the association’s 40th anniversary season.

A large part of the Americans’ game plan last week was simple: out-skate the opposing defender.

“We are a super-fast team,” said forward Luke Gassett, who was credited with a goal and an assist. He grinned when heard of the team’s tourney scoring differential. “We were just using our speed.”

The Americans appeared to be in overdrive Sunday.

Forward Cody Merlo opened the scoring 2 minutes, 49 seconds into the game and was followed by two quick goals by forward Spencer Sallenbach. The two goals were 16 seconds apart. Forward Nick Balestra was credited with an assist on both markers.

“With our speed and skill and the way we move the puck, when we do all of that, it is hard to compete against us,” Ocello said. “We really came together and we peaking at the right time.”

In the third period, forward Andy Willis had a goal and three assists.

With a roster loaded with 13 year olds, Alaska coach Corey Millen did not concentrate on the final score. Affton’s roster, meanwhile, was lined with kids born in 1998.

“We were a year younger,” Millen said. “Realistically, we were happy to be in this position.”

During last season’s playoffs, Cox competed as a 13-year-old. A year older, Cox on Sunday said he could sense a difference.

“It is big,” he said. “We are bigger, stronger and had more experience.”

When the final buzzer sounded, the players rushed Affton goalie Johnny Massara, who turned aside all 12 shots he faced in the final.

The celebration was on …

After the medal presentations, Cox clutched the championship plaque, kissed it and handed it to Gassett.

Said Cox: “We’re a family.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.