WEST GOSHEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Mark Lotito and the North Jersey Avalanche have captured national silver and bronze medals before.
“Three years ago, we lost in the championship in overtime and last year we lost in the semifinals,” Lotito said. “A silver and a bronze. I want to go back for gold.”
The Avalanche will get that chance April 6-10 in Pittsburgh for the 2017 USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18U National Championships thanks to sweeping the Philadelphia Junior Flyers on their own rink in the Atlantic District championship series.
New Jersey teams swept the Tier I titles at the Atlantic District Tournament March 18-20 at the Ice Line Quad Rinks.
The Avalanche won the 18U and 16U titles as well as the new 15-year-old championship. The two older teams will head to Pittsburgh while the 15s team heads to Scottsdale, Arizona, along with the 14U champion New Jersey Colonials.
Avalanche 18U team captain Tim Clifton, one of three returnees from last year’s national semifinalists, has an idea what to expect.
“If there’s anything I learned, it’s that there’s not going to be an easy game,” Clifton said. “Every game’s going to be an absolute grind.”
Youth Tier I
14U: New Jersey Colonials
15: North Jersey Avalanche
16U: North Jersey Avalanche
18U: North Jersey Avalanche
Youth Tier II
14U PA: Hershey Junior Bears
16U PA: West Chester Quakers
18U PA: West Chester Quakers
14U NJ: New Jersey Freeze
16U NJ: Jersey Penguins
18U NJ: Brick
The Avalanche swept the Junior Flyers, 6-3 and 6-0.
Clifton scored twice while Patrick Cozzi added a goal and an assist when the Avalanche opened a 6-1 lead early in the second period of the opener. Cole Edgerton and Tyler Riddle had two assists each.
Carson Briere scored twice for the Junior Flyers.
Special teams broke open the second game.
The Avalanche netted four power-play goals and one short-handed goal. Riddle had one of each, along with an assist.
Julian Kislin had a goal and three assists.
Highly regarded from the start of the season, it was not long before Lotito saw the possibility of getting a chance to climb higher on the national level.
“I felt the team itself was the same caliber and thought that maybe we had an even better skillset,” Lotito said. “They come with that compete level all the time.
“I knew in the first month that we had a team that could possibly challenge for Nationals.”
The Avalanche swept the New Jersey Titans, winning the first game 4-3 in overtime, and cruising to a 4-1 win in the rematch.
Matt Cameron scored the overtime game-winner.
Teth Burles had two goals, then Pierson Brandon scored with 10:02 left to force overtime.
Nick Lidoncini had a goal and assist for the Titans.
Ross Milton and Brandon Tabakin had power-play goals in the first two periods and Tate Brandon made 24 saves for the Avalanche in Game 2.
The Avalanche has thrived in the first year of the 15-year-old new age classification.
The team has won seven tournaments together beginning last April and June, then adding five more titles, including the Tier I Elite, during the season.
Tyler Franchi stopped 51 of 53 shots in a 5-2, 5-0 sweep of the Jersey Hitmen.
Franchi had a 31-save shutout in the second game when the Avalanche had to kill four penalties in order to take control.
“We had to fight through the adversity,” Franchi said. “We did a great job.”
Michael Posma had two goals and two assists in the opener.
Alex Laferriere had three assists in each game. Christian Sarlo had a goal and an assist in each game.
Balance carried the team in the clincher, with five players scoring a goal each. John Hallard had a goal and two assists.
The Avalanche played in USA Hockey's 14U Nationals last year, but just two of those players are on this team.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that all of these kids are local,” said Avalanche coach Larry Robbins, who passed out mini American flags to his players on the ice during the awards ceremony. Five of them played with the Avalanche for their entire lives and a lot of them are going to Nationals for the very first time.
“I’m happy for the boys. They worked together and they worked hard to develop this team.”
The Colonials dominated the New Jersey Devils Youth, sweeping the championship series, 6-0 and 7-2, while racking up an 83-27 shot advantage.
Alexandros Gaffney had a hat trick in the first game. Nicholas DeSantis had a goal and two assists, Seamus Campbell had a goal and an assist and Michael Cameron had three assists.
Seamus Campbell scored twice in the second win. Cole Vallese and Chase Bradley each had a goal and two assists. Gaffney and Nicholas DeGaetani each had two assists.
In Pennsylvania: The West Chester Quakers, playing at their home rink, captured the 18U and 16U spots from Pennsylvania.
The 14U spot went to the Hershey Junior Bears after they defeated the Ice Dogs, 5-3 and 4-3.
Jake Straub scored on the power play for a 3-1 lead in the first 10 minutes and also had an assist for the Bears in the opener. Gabe Page, who had an assist earlier, scored twice in the third period to build a 5-1 lead with 8:25 left.
Page scored the first two goals and assisted on the third as Hershey came back for a 3-1 lead with 12:25 left in the second after allowing the first goal in game two.
The lead reached 4-1 later in the second before the Bears had to hold on with help from Evan Petras, who finished with 34 saves in goal.
Ryan Gingras scored twice for the Ice Dogs.
In New Jersey: Brick, the Jersey Penguins and the New Jersey Freeze earned spots in the USA Hockey Nationals.
Brick, in 18U, and the Jersey Penguins, in 16U, claimed their berths in November at the end of the short season prior to high school hockey.
The New Jersey Freeze won the 14U championship series at Ice Line without allowing a goal.
Casey Einfeldt made 19 saves in the opening 2-0 win over the Ice House Avalanche and 33 saves in the 5-0 clincher.
The first game was scoreless until the final 1:08.
With the defense allowing just three third-period shots, the Freeze finally broke through on Michael Sofia’s goal off an Ethan Barooah assist.
Barooah also had an assist on Justin Harper’s empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
Barooah provided two power-play goals for a 3-0 lead with 4:59 left in the second period of Game 2. Nick Hefferle assisted on the first three goals and Harper finished with a goal and an assist.
In Delaware: The Delaware Ducks took the state’s spots in 19U, 16U and 14U AA national tournaments unopposed.
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|