AMHERST, N.Y. -- Sometimes you beat the buzzer. Sometimes the buzzer beats you.
This was evident on the last day of pool play in the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U National Championships. Both times, it was the end of the second period buzzer that played a significant role.
The Northern Kentucky Norse led the Sno-King Jr. Thunderbirds (out of Kirkland, Washington) 3-0 in the second period of their Tier II contest. Both teams came into the final day of the Liberty group at 2-0. Thus, they both clinched a spot in the playoffs, making this game just for bragging rights.
Bragging rights is what they wanted as both teams skated hard in an end-to-end, fast paced contest. After a scoreless first period, Ian Rentfrow and Harry D'Agostino scored 39 seconds apart to give Northern Kentucky the 2-0 lead. Chris Dunne made it 3-0 after receiving a nifty behind the back pass from D'Agostino.
In the waning seconds of the period, Sno-King had a breakaway and many thought the shot went in, but officials waved it off. Northern Kentucky transitioned back the other way, so quickly that it resulted in the their own breakaway.
With the clock about to run out, there was no time for a move. The shot from the left circle sailed over the shoulder of the goaltender into the far corner of the net.
However, the buzzer clearly sounded nanoseconds before the puck entered the net. The call on the ice was immediately no goal.
At the time, with the score already 3-0 and potentially 4-0, it appeared being beaten by the buzzer would be a meaningless footnote in the game. It turned out to be anything but.
That's because in the first four minutes of the final period, Brayden Shaw and Mitchell Brubacher scored. Suddenly, it was 3-2. At 9:04, Kalem Cutrer tied the game. Then with just 15 seconds left, Cameron Gross scored to give Sno-King an improbable 4-3 come-from-behind win.
Sno-King coach Bill Audycki explained the turnaround, "We took the first two periods off, and then we laid a little muscle on them and got a few turnovers, and got a few pucks to the net and stayed out of the penalty box. That's usually a formula for winning. None of them were pretty, but we'll take them."
Despite the exciting comeback, the Thunderbirds fell the next morning in the quarterfinals, 2-0, to the Maine Moose.
Northern Kentucky shook off the effects of their third period letdown, beating the Atlanta Knights in the quarterfinal, 3-0. Jacob Striker stopped all 30 shots for the shutout.
In the semifinal, Northern Kentucky once again suffered a letdown. They led the New England Edge, 2-0 only to let in three unanswered goals, including two in the third, to lose 3-2.
Successful Buzzer Beater Leads to Eventual Victory in 3A
All four teams in the USA group came into the final day of pool play with one win and one loss each. Thus, it was win or go home before the knockout round even started.
"I didn't have to tell them anything," Gulf Coast Flames coach Fred Eaton said. "It was one and done or we keep moving on. [I said,] 'You know how to play the game. No big speeches today guys. It's all about you.'"
Gulf Coast (out of Ellenton, Florida) and the Center State Stampede (out of Cazenovia, New York) were nearly scoreless through two.
With just 0.7 seconds left in the second period, David Tmej knocked in a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble to give Gulf Coast a 1-0 lead.
"Coming into the locker room it really got the kids motivated," Eaton said about the buzzer beater. "It was big. We needed it."
Center State did tie it up at 1:59 of the third period when Jacob Hyer finished off a two-on-one with a one-timer.
However, Gulf Coast carried the momentum of their buzzer beater goal as Mario Kellner fired a shot over the glove during a power play four minutes later. Ian Deckard got the insurance goal when the goalie was unable to hold onto Deckard's shot, and it dropped into the goal. Tmej got an empty netter to clinch the game at 4-1. His brother, Dominik Tmej, made 16 saves for the win.
"Each game we are getting better and better," Eaton said.
But they didn’t have enough to beat the Southern Connecticut Stars in the quarterfinal round. The Stars won 4-3 in a see-saw battle. Samuel Knowlton finally gave the Stars the permanent lead with 1:48 left in the game.
Despite Snow, Amherst Hosts Another Successful Tournament
The Northtown Center in Amherst is a favorite host site for USA Hockey. It has held various national tournaments of all varieties seemingly year after year.
The events are always run by Tournament Director Bob Schell in a large facility with four sheets of ice and plenty of locker rooms in an area rich with hockey tradition.
Participants can enjoy a side trip to Niagara Falls as well as many other local sites. Even the unusual April snow, which rolled through the weekend and triggered a travel advisory, failed to put a damper on the event.
However, the real reason players, coaches, and family love coming here is a simple and obvious one.
"We love Buffalo. Great chicken wings," Audycki said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.