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Young Team South Dakota Expands Lead, Wins Rematch in Final

By Tom Robinson - Special to, 04/07/14, 8:30AM MDT


ASHBURN, Va. -- Team South Dakota let three leads get away when it faced the Delaware Ducks in pool play Thursday at the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier II Youth National Championships.

With the 16-and-Under 1A title at stake in the rematch on Sunday, Team South Dakota got the lead again and expanded it.

South Dakota opened the game with two quick goals and ended it with five unanswered goals to handle Delaware 7-1 in the national championship game.

Jack Oberg opening the scoring 38 seconds into the game and finished with two goals and three assists. Zachery Bettmeng assisted the quick strike and finished with two goals and two assists.

“We just busted from start to finish,” said Oberg, who finished the tournament with three goals and six assists to share A division scoring honors with Delaware’s Derek Golembrosky. “We didn’t have a let-down period. In the [first] game, we let down in the third period and they came back.”

South Dakota took a 2-0 lead in the final, but Harry Tillman responded for Delaware 15 seconds later. However, But Oberg set up Bettmeng’s goal to restore the two-goal lead just 6:54 into the contest. South Dakota then broke the game open on goals by Brooks Mitzel, Bettmeng and Oberg in a 5:28 stretch of the second period to take a 6-1 lead.

“I don’t think we played them any differently,” South Dakota coach Chuck Vockler said. “I think we put a few more shots on them this time and we held the pressure. We kept the puck down deep.

“We worked the puck in. Once we got to the red line, we dumped the puck in, got after it and used our speed to get to the puck first. I think that really made the difference.”

South Dakota brought a team loaded with national tournament experience, but the title might have come a year ahead of schedule. Of the 20-player roster, 13 are 1998 birth-year players with another year of 16U eligibility.

Mitzel, Mitchell Moeller and Alex Murtha were all back from last year’s 16U team that lost to the eventual champion Greensboro Stars in the national semifinals while trying to defend the title Team South Dakota had won in 2012.

Many of the other players moved up, along with coach Vockler, from the Team South Dakota 14U squad that went 1-2 at nationals last year and was eliminated in pool play.

The players formed a championship unit despite playing together only early and late in the season. After the team was formed through summer tryouts for players from around the state, it finds 20 games wherever it can, including against AAA opponents and the state’s 18U team, then splits up to play the high school season.

“We’re pretty young,” Vockler said. “We have good size … and we came together in a real big hurry.

“With us only playing a short period of time together then them going back and playing for their hometown, it takes a lot for them to get together and bond as a team. They did that very well.”

Oberg, Mitzel, Blake Kauth, Owen Leberknight and Michael Petrotto — the largest group from any one team — helped Rapid City win the state title during the regular season.

The Ducks showed resiliency on their way to the final.

Even after a 2-0 start, Delaware faced the prospect of likely losing out on a three-way tiebreaker before defeating the Oil City Kings 5-3 to win its pool and reach the semifinals. The Ducks then reached the final by rallying for a 5-4 overtime win over the Huntsville Chargers.

The top two teams in each pool advanced directly to the semifinals because A featured eight teams, compared to the 16 each in AAA and AA.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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