AMHERST, N.Y. -- Kevin Mann, coach of the Chicago Mission Tier I 14U youth team, has been in charge of this group since the kids were 9-years-old. This is their first opportunity at a national title.
So far, everything is going to plan in the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships.
Chicago opened the tournament with an easy 8-0 win over the Cleveland Barons. Jack Randl got a hat trick while John Drury got a goal and three assists.
Next, Chicago faced the de-facto home team, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, who had won their first game 6-3 over the Colorado Thunderbirds.
Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a Zach Dubinsky backhander of a rebound from in close midway through the second period. However, Buffalo cut the lead in half two minutes later during a power play when Matthew Doyle one-timed a quick pass.
The backbreaking goal, on a power play, came when Dubinsky knocked in a rebound from the low slot with 32.3 seconds left in the second for a 3-1 lead.
Chicago took command, lighting the lamp three more times in the third en route to a 6-1 win. The final goal was the culmination of a perfectly executed two-on-one.
“It’s good,” Mann said. “Kind of what we expected. We won the first game. Today, Buffalo played us really hard for the first two periods, then I thought we took over the game in the third period. Overall, it’s a great experience for the kids.”
Chicago goalie Nicholas Grabko has now let up just one goal in two games.
In total, Dubinsky and Randl have three goals in the two games, while John Drury, Jacob Pivonka, Samuel Stevens, and Jozef Martancik each scored twice.
“We’re pretty deep,” Mann said. “We got 10 forwards and, honest to God, it changes every game with who stands out.
“Goaltending has been super. We got two guys, obviously. Nick Grabko has been carrying the bulk of our games down the stretch here. But our other goalie (Chase Johnson) can go in at any time and play well, too.”
For the final game of the round-robin portion of the tournament, Chicago faces Colorado. The Thunderbirds came back after losing their first game to defeat Cleveland 4-2.
Thus, a Colorado win would will put them first based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
How important is it for Chicago to win the last game and take Pool B?
“It’s huge,” Mann said. “Top eight come out of the 16, so obviously if you can get that one seed out of your side, it’s a crossover and you play the two seed from the other side. It’s very important.”
This team has been together for a while. And they’ve been successful for a while.
Now they are looking to make the next step.
“We’ve been a top two team in the country for the past five years now,” Mann said. “They’re a great bunch. They stuck together since they were about nine-years-old. They’re a strong group and been able to compete well with the best in the country.”
Rankings are one thing. Proving it on the ice is another. This Chicago Mission group of kids will now have that opportunity to do just that.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.