The Chicago Mission continued highly successful seasons by winning two of the three Youth Tier I titles when the Central District held its Kohlman Cup championships March 11-13 in Ralston, Nebraska.
The Mission 16U and 14U teams followed up regular-season and playoff titles in the High Performance High League by claiming the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier I National Championships berths that went with the Central District titles.
Chicago will send its 16U team to San Jose, California in pursuit of a second national championship in four years at that level. The 14U team is headed to Anchorage, Alaska. Both tournaments are scheduled for March 31-April 4.
The talent level of the 16U team is evident in the fact that five of the top 48 American hockey players born in 2000 who were invited to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Evaluation Camp March 18-22 in Plymouth, Michigan were from the Mission.
Team scoring leader Jacob Pivonka, Jack Randl and Jack Drury were at the camp as forwards. Team assist leader Spencer Stastney and Bode Wilson, who leads the team’s defensemen in goals, were part of the defensive group.
The Mission went 18-5 in the regular season while winning the High Performance Hockey League Midget Minor Division.
Pivonka had 10 goals and 22 points during that schedule while Stastney had 14 assists.
Matthew Waite picked up 10 wins in goal, including four by shutout, while posting a 1.75 goals against average and .894 save percentage.
“When we’re on our game, our puck possession game is really good,” coach Anders Sorensen said. “We want to play with the puck.
“That’s when I know the team is on, we don’t give away too many pucks. We hold on to it.”
The Mission remained on its game through the Kohlman Cup, allowing just four goals while going 3-0 in the round-robin event. Chicago defeated the St. Louis Blues, 5-2, got past a highly regarded Team Wisconsin, 3-2, then defeated the host Omaha Hockey Club, 1-0, in overtime.
“We defend well with our sticks,” Sorensen said. “We’re not as big as some teams but we have very good positioning and very good stick skills with our defense.”
Using its high-tempo style, the Mission 14U team rolled over the St. Louis Blues, 13-0, and Team Wisconsin, 6-1, to head to the last Central District game in need of just making it to overtime to advance.
Chicago got its overtime game before falling to Omaha, 2-1, despite a huge shot advantage.
“We just needed the point,” 14U head coach Tony Cavallini said. “You get to those tournaments and you know the tiebreaker, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.
“We just couldn’t score. We were playing an aggressive game.”
Cavallini’s team has worked through injuries to go 50-19-8 overall.
When it gets to Anchorage, the Mission will still be short two players because of hand injuries.
“Our players have been pretty resilient,” Cavallini said. “We’ve only played 12 games all year with our full 19-man roster.
“The kids are peaking and playing their best hockey right now.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.