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Central District: Mission Tops Omaha for Trip to Tier I 16U Nationals

By Greg Bates, 03/28/17, 9:45AM MDT


Team Wisconsin 18U overcomes loss in other Central District action

The Chicago Mission and Omaha AAA Hockey Club have had plenty of battles this year at the Youth Tier I 16U level.

The two teams squared off eight times in the regular season with the Mission gaining a 5-3 advantage, but those results were meaningless when the two met March 18 in the 2017 USA Hockey Central District Tournament in a de facto championship game at the Blue Line Family Ice Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Aptly, the game was tied 5-5 after regulation as Omaha carried over a 5-on-3 advantage into overtime. Mission killed off the penalties and then went on a power play of its own. Defenseman Brian Silver scored with the extra skater to give Mission a 6-5 victory and the district title.

Mission also received an automatic bid to the 2017 USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championships in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, scheduled for April 6-10.

“We’ve had great games against them all year; it’s back and forth,” Mission coach Gino Cavallini said. “It’s always a toss-up. But the boys played well when they had to, and they’re great competition.”

Mission went undefeated in the district tournament, beating Team Wisconsin 5-1 in the opener and the St. Louis Junior Blues 3-2 in the finale.

“Those are the games we want to play more of than not,” Cavallini said. “It’s great hockey. You make a mistake against one of those top-10 teams and there’s no guarantees of the outcome. Every shift means something.”

Mission has now won 11 of its last 13 games heading into Nationals.

“We’ve played some good hockey the last couple of months,” Cavallini said. “You get highs and lows over the course of the season, but the top teams, there’s never an easy game because everyone’s measuring themselves against the top teams. You’ve got to be ready to play every game.”

It’s a balanced attack that makes Cavallini’s team so good. He raves about the talent on his three lines.

“We’ll put our guys up against anyone. We’re pretty deep,” Cavallini said. “Our top line with [Alex] Turcotte, [Mathieu] De St. Phalle and [Luke] Toporowski, they’re a handful to contain to start with. Then we come back with [Zachary] Dubinsky, [Tyler] Carpenter and [Johnny] Johnson and [TJ] Koufis, [Jesse] Lowell and [Owen] Lindmark. We come at you hard. They’re pretty relentless.”

Mission heads into Nationals with high expectations knowing they are one of the best teams in the country. But with so much parity at Youth Tier I 16U this year, Cavallini knows it’s going to be a tough tournament.

“I’ve been at this a few years now and this is the probably the most parity there’s been with the top teams,” Cavallini said. “I think the elimination of that quarterfinal game (in Tier I Nationals) means everyone’s got to be ready right out of the gate. There’s no room for error.”

District Champions

Youth Tier I

14U: Chicago Mission

15: Team Wisconsin

16U: Chicago Mission

18U: Team Wisconsin

Team Wisconsin Youth Tier I 18U off to Nationals

The players on Team Wisconsin Youth Tier I 18U have never been to Nationals. With their opportunities dwindling, they took care of business this year.

Team Wisconsin went 2-1 in the Central District tournament on March 17-19, but scored a key victory over Chicago Mission to earn a trip to Pittsburgh for Nationals.

“I think it’s another mark for their career as far as where they want to get to,” said Luke Strand, Team Wisconsin coach. “They’re great kids. It’s nice to represent the state of Wisconsin.”

Team Wisconsin opened the tournament by taking down Mission 6-1. Team Wisconsin was tripped up by the St. Louis Junior Blues 4-3 in the middle game.

“Sunday we rebounded,” said Strand. “We knew that it was an either-win-or-done type of thing, so I give them credit for seeing the light and figuring out a way to go do it together.”

The final game was an 8-1 thumping of Omaha to clinch a spot in the national tournament.

“I thought for 200 feet of the rink, our guys stuck together, did their thing,” Strand said. “I liked how we competed. We have a really tight group of individuals and you can kind of look at them and you know they want to do it for the guys to the left and right of them.”

Strand said his power play unit, namely Ohio State commits Cole Caufield and Aaron Grounds as well as Ian Malcolmson, Chase Blackmun and Jordan Steinmetz, played well all tournament.

“That group of five do a really nice job and scored some timely goals that gave us some breathing room,” Strand said. “That being said, they got everyone involved in games that way.”

Team Wisconsin, which usually alternates its goalies, went with the hot hand of Sam Dunn. During the high school season, Dunn helped lead a deep push in the playoffs for Sun Prairie.

“It gave us some stability back there, because we have rotated the majority of the year,” Strand said. “You know what, I think at some point, he just kind of won the confidence.”

Strand is excited for his guys to get the opportunity to play at the national level.

“There’s just some undercover, good players that don’t often get on a stage like this,” Strand said. “I don’t know if they get the attention they deserve. Good for these guys to be able to do that.”

Chicago Mission Advance in Youth Tier I 14U

Chicago Mission had a dominating performance at Youth Tier I 14U in the Central District tournament, outscoring its opponents 11-2 in three victories to punch a ticket to Nationals.

Mission downed Team Wisconsin 4-1 and Omaha 6-1, then hung on to beat the St. Louis Junior Blues 1-0.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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2017 USA Hockey National Championship Sites

Division Location Host Dates
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