WAYNE, N.J. -- Alex Waddel of the Idaho Junior Steelheads wasn’t exactly a household name before the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships at the Ice Vault last week.
But the talented forward ended up being the top scorer in the 18-and-Under A division, leading the Steelheads to the title game, before falling to then Knoxville Ice Bears, 5-1. Waddel managed to score his team’s lone goal in the title game, giving him a total of nine goals for six games work during the week in New Jersey. The goal-scoring explosion helped Waddel to get some attention from the college scouts that were in attendance.
“It definitely helped, for sure,” Waddel said. “I had a lot of scouts talk to me. My main goal here was to help my team win, but this was definitely an awesome experience for me. I had a really good time. I never had anything like this before.”
In Waddel’s native Boise, there aren’t many opportunities to play against such talented competition.
“We travel quite a bit,” Waddel said. “The closest city to Boise is five hours. Usually, to get to a game, it takes eight to 10 hours. It definitely gets tough. But it’s worth it for me, because I really love the sport. I’m proud of the way we played here.”
Waddel is headed to California Polytechnic State University to study physics. So unless someone blows him away with a college offer to play hockey, Waddel is going to be a student in the fall.
Two of the Triplets
Lucas and Gage Despins, two of a set of three triplets, played for the A division champion Knoxville Ice Bears this weekend. The third triplet Dave played hockey in high school but has since given it up.
Lucas and Gage play club hockey at the University of Tennessee, where Gage is majoring in accounting and finance and Lucas is majoring in mechanical engineering.
Winning the national championship was a longtime goal for the Despins brothers.
“We’ve been playing together for four years, working for this,” said Gage Despins, who had five goals and eight assists during the tourney, including one goal and three assists in the 5-1 championship game victory. “We’ve played more than 100 games together. I’m so proud of this team. I can’t put words to this.”
“It’s the greatest moment of my whole life,” Lucas Despins said. “It’s actually sort of surreal, because we talked about it for such a long time. Now that it’s happened, you almost can’t believe it.”
Jayce Dornan had a great day for the Ice Bears, scoring two goals in the title game. The 17-year-old Dornan, a junior at Knoxville Catholic High School, had a goal to remember, scoring his second goal of the game while seated on his pants.
“I’m stunned it went in,” said Dornan, who just tried to keep the play alive while on his derriere after falling. “It’s a one-time kind of a deal. But it’s definitely memorable. I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. I didn’t see much of it [the goal], because after all, I was down on the ice. I was very surprised.”
Dornan said that playing with the Despins brothers has been helpful.
“They’ve made me 10 times a better player,” Dornan said. “I’m just happy to be here. Getting recognition is very important because I’m very young. I hope everyone was happy with the way I played today and I can get recognized in the future.”
The Affton Americans of St. Louis won the Tier II AA championship, defeating the hometown New Jersey Bandits, 2-1.
The goal scorers for the Americans are extremely young. Zeth O’Bryan, who scored the Americans’ first goal, is a 15-year-old freshman at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis. Jordan Bratton, who scored the other Affton goal, is a 16-year-old junior at Fox High School, also in St. Louis.
“It’s definitely great to be out here with older guys and holding my own,” O’Bryan said. “I never get intimidated by it. My teammates are great. They always have my back.”
“We’re a young team,” Bratton said. “We want to come back and win the nationals again. That’s the goal.”
New Jersey Bandits goalkeeper Ross Mantione stopped an astounding 51 shots during his team’s finale against the Affton Americans. After the game, the senior from West Milford High School said he wasn’t fatigued by facing such a barrage of shots and wasn’t too sore.
“I would have liked to face 62 shots,” Mantione said. “I’m not too tired.”
Mantione recovered so well that he was at a practice for another travel team at the Ice Vault, one that began at 3:15 p.m., just two hours after his game against Affton.
Mantione is hoping to play in college or perhaps junior hockey.
Mid-State Mustangs captain Sam Lafferty has a very bright future. After scoring nine goals in a week, four in the semifinals and one more in the finals, he will play for Salmon Arm in the British Columbia Hockey League in the fall and will then head to Brown University in 2015.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” Lafferty said. “The ending here was awesome.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.