SAN JOSE, Calif. — The thrill of victory and agony of defeat were on display after the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18U National Championships title game when the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite came up with a 3-0 win over the Culver Academy Eagles on Monday.
“It’s such a surreal feeling,” Penguins goaltender Chad Veltri said. “It’s my dream, it’s everyone’s dream, and it’s just amazing that it happened.”
Veltri earned a hard-fought 31-save shutout to clinch the national championship.
“That’s also amazing,” Veltri said.
He finished the weekend with five wins in six games, a 2.00 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage.
“He’s been our star all year, he’s our MVP,” Penguins coach Kevin Quinn said. “He’s had an outstanding tournament, and to get a shutout in the national championship game, ‘pride’ doesn’t even do it justice.”
Meanwhile, as Pittsburgh’s players were still celebrating long after their ceremony ended by making snow-angels on the ice, Culver coach Steve Palmer had to explain to his young son, Chase, why he doesn’t need to cry over the loss.
“We needed a bounce or two,” Palmer said. “A couple bounced over sticks, we hit a post, one just rolled by the net. One of those goes in, and maybe it’s a different hockey game, but that’s sports.
“I wish all of them went in,” Chase said.
“I wish all of them went in, too,” Steve responded.
The Culver Eagles played their hearts out, and outshot the Penguins 31-26.
“Give them credit,” Steve Palmer said. “They blocked 20 shots, and their goalie played great, and they tackled guys on the way to the net. They made it really, really hard to score.”
Quinn was quick to thank his defense as well for the effort.
“I can’t say enough about my defenseman,” Quinn said. “They were blocking shots, selling out all game long — one went off a guy’s head. We’re just doing whatever we can to win.”
Offensively, a few forwards really shined for Pittsburgh on the big stage as well.
Jordan Timmons’ vision set up the first goal, as he fired a puck toward the front of the net from a bad angle in the corner. The puck deflected off Eagles’ goaltender Alex Wisco and bounced backdoor to crashing forward Connor Quinn into the net.
“They were aggressive at the end of that kill, which left our guy wide open in front of the net on the rebound,” Quinn said. “Yeah, we had some puck luck there, but you need it to win hockey games.”
Eric Cooley’s speed through the neutral zone helped throughout the game. And his insurance goal midway through the third period helped seal the win.
“Cooley had just been flying out there,” Quinn said. “He’s a special player.”
Cooley and Timmons each finished the game with one goal and two assists.
Both teams finished the night with a reason to be proud and to hold their heads up high.
“We come in as an at-large bid, and to take down not just Shattuck, but Culver, and North Jersey, and Cape Cod,” Quinn said. “We’re a hard-working group of kids that deserve everything they get.”
Chase wiped the tears out of his eyes when his dad told him something very similar to his postgame comments.
“If, at the beginning of the year, you’d have told me we’d be in the finals, I’d have been very, very skeptical of that,” Steve Palmer said. “They came a long way, and they played really good hockey, so I’m proud of them.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.