GILBERT, Ariz. — For the Rocky Mountain Roughriders Youth Tier I 14U team, this season has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
But the coaster might’ve hit its highest point on Sunday afternoon when they punched their ticket to the 2017 USA Hockey Youth Tier I 14U National Championships after defeating the Arizona Bobcats, 3-2, in overtime of the Rocky Mountain District Tournament title game Sunday afternoon in Gilbert, Arizona. They’ll be back soon for Nationals, scheduled for April 6-10 in nearby Scottsdale.
For the Roughriders, being in a high-pressure situation was a very familiar spot for them.
“That’s how we won a state championship,” said head coach Matt Huckins. “It was the same thing. It was 2-2, we played under a lot of pressure. We had to beat our rival, the Thunderbirds, it would be the seventh time in a row and Trace [Norwell] had the game-winner. It was pretty impressive for him to be able to do that.”
But Sunday’s ride to the top of the roller coaster almost had a quick descent to the bottom.
The Roughriders had a 2-0 lead in the third period, with goals coming from Winter Wallace and Aidan Thompson. After that second goal, the Bobcats quickly answered with one of their own 10 seconds later and the game-tying goal 18 seconds after that.
But their district championship game mirrored their state championship game with Norwell to the rescue again, this time just minutes into overtime to win the game and help the Roughriders punch their ticket to the national tournament.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” said Norwell, who also notched an assist in the contest. “It was really the defenseman, he made the great pass right up the middle, good job for seeing me, and just gave me a chance to do that for the team.”
Norwell also noted how this game mirrored what the season was like for he and his teammates.
“We had some ups and downs,” said Norwell. “We’d have a really good tournament, and then the next time, we’d play iffy. But we started to peak at the end and we really started to come together at the end of the season, which is right now. We’re ramping it up and I think we’re playing really good hockey.”
On the other end of the ice, goaltender Kayden Hargraves made quality saves throughout the contest, but he credited the defense in front of him for easing his workload.
“There [weren’t] that many shots that came in and the defense did a pretty good job,” said Hargraves, who stopped 21 of 23 shots on Sunday. “There were no breakaways, nothing like that.”
Looking ahead to Nationals, Norwell said he and his teammates are excited for the opportunity to return to Arizona to play more games.
“The whole team is pumped,” said Norwell. “I don’t think we fully know what has happened yet. It’s just going to be a great experience for all of us and I think we’re all super-pumped.”
Heading into Nationals, Huckins says he has no plans to change what has worked well for this team up to this point.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’ll change too much,” said Huckins. “We’ve used the same game plan with these guys all year, we’ve been a team that’s played everyone. I think we’ll go back and try to keep our tempo and pace as high as possible, but no changes for us. I trust these guys. They’re fun to be with. It’s bonus hockey for us right now.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
|Youth Tier I (14U)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (15-year-olds only)||Scottsdale, Arizona||Arizona Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier I (16U, 18U)||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||April 6-10, 2017|
|Girls Tier I||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Women's A, B, C||Rochester/Macomb, Michigan||HoneyBaked Hockey Club||April 6-9, 2017|
|High School||Cleveland, Ohio||Cleveland Suburban Hockey||March 22-26, 2017|
|Girls Tier II||Troy, Michigan||Troy Youth Hockey Association||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (14U)||Coral Springs, Florida||Florida Panthers Ice Den||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (16U)||Frisco, Texas||Texas Amateur Hockey||April 6-10, 2017|
|Youth Tier II (18U)||Lansing, Michigan||Lansing Hockey Club||April 6-10, 2017|
|Sled||San Jose, California||Sharks Ice||April 6-9, 2017|
|Adult Rec Men's||Wesley Chapel, Florida||Florida Hospital Center Ice||April 20-23, 2017|
|Adult Rec Women's||Ellenton, Florida||Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex||April 27-30, 2017|