SAN JOSE, Calif. — Never count out a perennial powerhouse. In the 2016 Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier 1 16U National Championships, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School won the title with a 2-1 win against Victory Honda.
“I don’t know if a lot of people thought this group was capable of it, but we certainly felt like they were, and they felt like they were,” Shattuck coach Ben Umhoefer said.
Forward Nick Bink scored on a rebound in the first period to give SSM of Minnesota the lead. Victory Honda of Michigan tied the game two minutes into the second period with a shorthanded goal from Patrick Smyth, but SSM answered when one of its top scorers, Connor McMenamin, converted on a power play.
“We knew, going in playing Shattuck, they’re well-coached, well-disciplined team,” Victory Honda coach Derek Szajner said. “We needed to pick up our physical play, which we did, and sort of had them on the ropes there, but just couldn’t get a grade-A scoring chance down the pipe there.”
Victory Honda finished with the edge in shots, 25-19, and in the third period threw everything they could on net to try to tie the contest, out-shooting Shattuck 11-4 in the period.
“They really poured it on,” Umhoefer said. “Victory Honda is such a good team.”
In the face of the onslaught, Shattuck goalie Jack Robbel stole the show — and quite a few goals as well — stopping 24 of 25 shots in the championship game.
In the overall tournament, Robbel started in five games, allowed only five goals against, had a .964 save percentage and completed two shutouts. To top it off, he also had an assist.
“Everyone in our program knows how good he is, and hopefully now other people see how good he is,” Umhoefer said. “He’s not a big guy, but he’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached. What he did this week was incredible.”
Robbel, the 17-year-old from Bloomington, Minnesota, is listed at 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds, but he used every bit of that to make saves.
His best sequence came late in the first period of the championship game. After making two quick saves, Robbel was left out of position as the puck came to a Victory Honda stick in the slot. Robbel made a stick save out of mid-air while lying on his back.
“He stood on his head,” Szajner said.
But it wasn’t just Robbel who helped keep pucks out of the net. The defense in front of him had no problems buying into the system and stepping in front of as many shots as necessary to protect the lead.
With the numerous hockey alumni Shattuck produces — including Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews, Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker, just to name a few — it just might be easier for the players to fully commit to the system and the coaching staff’s game, although Umhoefer downplayed that.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s easier to get the guys to buy in,” he said. “I mean, I would think any team would be flying around with seven minutes left in the game blocking shots if there’s a national title on the line, right?”
It’s hard to argue with the results, though. Between the youth 18U, 16U and 14U divisions, and the girls’ 19U and 16U teams, Shattuck-St. Mary’s had produced 20 USA Hockey National Champions since 1999. This win is just another notch in the belt for the powerhouse program.
Umhoefer credited experienced assistant coach Des Christopher, but put most of the emphasis on how well they players did themselves.
“They work so hard for this,” Umhoefer said. “I think they were really deserving. They played great all week.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.