SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Sunday’s Rocky Mountain District Tier I 18-and-Under championship game at the Ice Den had all the ingredients needed for a great title game in hockey: grit, great goaltending and, for the sake of the Colorado Rampage, an overtime hero.
Led by Jacob Gerson’s goal in double overtime and backstopped by Jacob Weatherly’s 35-save performance, the Rampage defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 to secure a spot in the USA Hockey National Championships, which begin April 2 in Green Bay, Wis.
Despite the end of the game being about the Rampage, the Stars had the momentum in the early stages, and they were able to convert that momentum into a 1-0 lead when forward Carson Kelly notched his third goal of the tournament at the 8:28 mark of the opening period.
The Stars carried the pressure over into the second period, but Weatherly stood tall in net for the Rampage, swallowing up loose pucks and making a couple key saves to keep the deficit at one.
While the ice started to tilt in favor of the Rampage, the tension rose between the two teams. Pushing and shoving ensued after some whistles and rough play late in the second period led to a four-on-four situation.
In the third period Colorado kept the momentum and was able to finally solve Dallas goalie Brock Thompson at the 7:02 mark of the third period when a shot was fired from just inside the blue line and grazed off the stick of JJ Huerena for his second goal of the tournament.
Despite some good scoring chances for both teams through the first overtime period, the game remained scoreless. Both teams were sent back to their dressing rooms after the first overtime so that the ice could be resurfaced.
The extra rest proved to be beneficial for the Rampage, who had some jump in their step as they returned to the ice and were able to turn their offensive pressure into a goal when they found the back of the net just 1:12 into the second overtime. The loose puck found Gerson’s stick in front of the Dallas net, and he shot it just past the glove of Thompson for the win and the berth in nationals.
“I just remember that someone threw it to the net and it ended up on my stick and it was right there, empty net. I just shot it and it went in,” said Gerson, who finished the tournament with a goal and two assists in five games.
After the game, Rampage coach Andrew Sherman talked about how his team’s perseverance has been present all season long.
“They [Dallas] had some momentum, they had some chances to end it,” Sherman said. “But one thing about this group is that they’ve been very resilient, they believe in each other and even if they’re down or behind in a game, they never quit.”
Weatherly faced a total of 101 shots in the tournament and stopped all but four of them.
“I just think that if you keep with it they’ll eventually get one for you,” he said. “They definitely had my back today and I appreciate it.”
Despite just walking off the ice with the district championship, Sherman and his team were already looking ahead to nationals and thinking about the opportunities they’ll have when they go up against the best teams in the country.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids,” Sherman said. “We appreciate it, we don’t take it for granted and we want to represent the district as well as we can.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.