IRVING, Texas – On a day when the Dallas Stars Elite teams won four Rocky Mountain District championships on their home ice, the Colorado Thunderbirds 16U team prevented a hometown sweep.
Brian Hawkinson’s second-period goal held up as Thunderbirds goalie Dayton Rasmussen shut out the Stars 1-0 on Sunday.
Colorado had just 19 shots on goal, and Dallas 16.
“There wasn’t a ton of Grade A chances. It was a physical game,” Thunderbirds coach Angelo Ricci said. “They defended us well. It’s been that way a lot over the last 10 years.
“We had a lot of power plays, but we didn’t capitalize.”
The Thunderbirds were able to score with both teams at full strength. Ben Lown won a faceoff and sent the puck out to Ashton Fry on the point. He passed to Hawkinson for the goal.
“Short side, top shelf,” Ricci said. “We had a play on, and Lowe’s line executed the play just the way we taught them.”
The win sends Colorado back to the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championships March 26-30 in Amherst, N.Y.
“Last year at the nationals, we played four overtimes and lost 2-1,” Ricci said. “Those games are usually tight-checking.”
The T-birds haven’t had many close games this season. They have won 61 of 65 games, with only one regulation loss and three overtime losses. Colorado has allowed just 65 goals and outscored opponents by an average score of 5-1.
The Thunderbirds started the district tournament with an average 5-1 victory over Hockey Club Dallas, then swept three more opponents to reach the final: West Coast Renegades (West Valley City, Utah) 6-0. Phoenix Junior Coyotes 4-1 and Rocky Mountain Roughriders 3-1.
Seeing Stars (And Thunderbirds)
The Thunderbirds and Stars played in all three Tier I district finals. All were decided by one goal. The 18U Stars rallied to win 2-1. The 14U championship game was the closest, with Dallas winning 2-1.
The 14U game was scoreless through the first two periods. Dallas’ Conner Griebenow scored at 1:02 of the third, but the Thunderbirds tied the game 1-1 when Wil Crane put in a rebound with 3:13 remaining in regulation time.
After that, Dallas had power plays for 2:37 but couldn’t break the tie.
The overtime lasted just 1:31, which was when Austin Lidster took a pass from Michael Gildon in the slot and sent the puck past Colorado goalie JP Tourigny to win the championship.
“I kind of threw it on the net, hoping it would go through,” Lidster said. “Michael Gildon saw me because he had his head up.”
He and coach Stan Tugolukov agreed that calling a timeout after Colorado scored had helped the Stars.
“When you have a lead and the opposite team makes it even, they’re pumped up,” Tugolukov said. “You want to make sure your team is calm and gets back to basics. It breaks their momentum too.”
Renewing NHL Rivalries
It’s fitting that the Stars and the Thunderbirds would be rivals.
The NHL’s Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche have been frequent division and playoff rivals during their history. The 14U coaches reflect that rivalry. Thunderbirds coach Adam Foote and assistant Joe Sakic both played for the Avalanche, and Stars 14U assistant Stu Barnes played for the Dallas Stars. The three each have a son playing for their youth team: Nolan Foote, Chase Sakic and Jack Barnes.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.