TAYLOR, Mich. -- Coming into the Michigan state championship tournament last week at the Taylor SportsPlex in Taylor, Mich., the 14U Belle Tire squad was a determined bunch after falling short last year.
The team justified that by shutting out the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 5-0 for the Tier I 14-and-Under state championship and punching its ticket to the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I Youth National Championships on April 2-6 in Green Bay, Wis.
“Last year we ended up on the losing side of the state championship game,” recalled coach Jason Lawmaster. “I think the kids in our locker room did not want to experience that again, and so they worked hard all year and the new faces on our team bought into everything as well and they were not to be denied tonight.”
Cade Robinson and Sasha Chmelevski paced the attack with a pair of goals each and Kyle Keyser stopped all 22 shots he faced.
Keyser, who is from Florida, impressed the coaching staff after facing Belle Tire during last season. The team in turn invited him to try out, and the youngster made the team and had a solid year, capping it off with a state championship.
“I had a real good season, and the coaching staff as well as my teammates helped me out a lot,” Keyser said. “I am one of three goaltenders on the team and we all support each other. When we are called to play we are prepared to compete.”
Lawmaster praised all his goaltenders after the game.
“From top to bottom, our goaltending has been a strong point of this team,” Lawmaster said. “I make a habit of trying to share the net with all three as much as I can, and Nathan Langlois and Brett Miller along with Keyser have played extremely well through out the year.”
The turning point of the game came in the second period when an apparent goal from Oakland was disallowed.
“We were down two nothing and of course the goal for us would have been huge,” said Grizzlies coach Dwayne Norris. “Shortly after the disallowed goal Belle Tire made it 3-0, and I thought that sucked the life out of us. We battled hard until the very end but came up short.”
Robinson opened the scoring for Belle Tire at 7:05 of the opening frame after a nice three way passing play from Brandon Kruse and Cameron Babiak who drew the assist.
Belle Tire made it 2-0 with a little less then minute to go in the first period as Robinson netted another goal, this time an unassisted shorthanded score.
Chmelevski scored twice in the middle stanza with goals less then three minutes apart. The first goal with 8:46 left was a second straight unassisted goal. Hunter Payment and Hayden Rowan contributed helpers on Chmelevski’s second goal on the power play.
Chase Danol scored the final goal in the third period with assists credited to Trever Locklear and Joshua Wildauer, with 13:44 to play in the game.
“We came out hard, and we were lucky enough to get the first goal,” Lawmaster said. “From that point on we kept pressing and we then scored one after another while holding off Oakland. Our defense moved the puck well and our forwards pinched in to create scoring chances.”
Lawmaster praised Oakland for their hard effort.
“They are a class act team,” he said. “Dwayne Norris’s team always battle hard and today we were lucky enough to win the battle and now we are off to the nationals.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.