The Anaheim Jr. Ducks spent an entire year preparing for the ultimate showdown from their cross-town rivals, and in the end, it was a little-used forward who stepped up and made the biggest difference for the Ducks in the Pacific District Tier I 14U tournament.
Facing the LA Jr. Kings in the district final in San Jose, the Ducks trailed 2-1 in the third period but received two clutch goals from Jiyoon Chae to pull out a 3-2 victory and the district title.
Chae, who moved to southern California from South Korea at the beginning of the season, had basically been an extra player this season. He practiced with the Ducks but only played in a handful of games, usually in tournaments or when a regular player was unavailable. But when he got the opportunity in the district tournament, he delivered, tying it with 7:00 left and scoring the game-winner with 5:16 remaining.
“He’s had a great attitude and been very patient,” Ducks coach Sandy Gasseau said. “And when you come over here and you’re not playing that much, I’m sure it wasn’t that much fun for him at times. But he kept working hard, and when we had a kid that couldn’t make the [tournament], he basically had to step in and take that spot, and made it worthwhile. For us to think that he would have gotten the tying and go-ahead goals, I would have not predicted that.”
The final result was something Gasseau had been working toward since last season ended.
“Our goal this year was to be as least as competitive as the Jr. Kings,” Gasseau said. “We had a good recruiting spring, so I knew we’d be in there with the Jr. Kings, that at least we could compete, because the year before we were definitely weaker. I knew going into regionals that we’d play them at least once, with the round robin, and more likely twice, with the final. And I was hoping that we could do it.”
The Ducks won all three round robin games by a combined margin of 17-3, including a huge 7-0 victory over the Kings when everything went right for them. Because of that, Gasseau knew it would be a much more difficult task to beat them again in the final.
“It’s just tough to keep beating the same team over and over, and in the first game of the round robin, we just hit every spot and we won 7-0,” Gasseau said. “We hit all our spots, they had a hard time hitting their spots, so I knew it would be even tougher in the final, and sure enough, it was.”
Next the Ducks will participate in the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships March 26-30 in Amherst, N.Y.
Despite Finals Loss, Silvertips Enjoyed Outstanding Finish
The last game didn’t quite go how the Everett Jr. Silvertips envisioned it, but there’s no denying that the Tier I 16U squad enjoyed an outstanding finish to a somewhat difficult season.
Following a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over the Alaska All-Stars in the Pacific District semifinal, the Silvertips wound up falling in the district final to the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, 6-2.
Still, for a team that didn’t ice a completely healthy lineup until the tournament’s opening game, it was a strong way to complete the year, especially since just reaching the district tournament was such an accomplishment in the first place.
“This is the first time an Everett team has gone to the district tournament, and we won Everett’s first state title this year, too, which was a nice feather in the guys’ caps,” said Silvertips coach Nick Fouts. “This area typically sends one or two teams each year, but it’s the first time Everett has sent a team. All year long, we had injury after injury after injury, and when we showed up in San Jose, that was the first game that we played with all 20 guys healthy.”
Their performance throughout the tournament, winning two of three games in the round robin before the thrilling comeback win in the semifinal, showed Fouts what his team was really about this year.
“It was nice to see the hard work and the way they came together there in that tournament,” Fouts said. “I feel like we deserved it and the guys earned that win [in the semifinal], even when we were down late. And I think we had like one or two goals called off earlier in the game, and they didn’t let that get to them, they kept battling. They stayed positive going into overtime and found a way to score one quick.”
Harrison Clark tied the semifinal with 5:15 remaining in the third period, and Trail Thompson netted the game-winner with 4:49 left in the first OT.
“When it counted, they stepped up, and we were healthy enough to make a run at the final game there,” Fouts said. “We had two big come-from-behind wins, one against the Alaska Oilers and in the semifinals, and it was exciting for the guys. They played well and came together when they needed to. The competition was great. It was pretty even across the board, I think it could have been anyone’s tournament, really.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.