HACKENSACK, N.J. — The New Jersey Avalanche Tier I 16U and 18U teams took advantage of home ice to win their latest USA Hockey Atlantic District Tournament titles and will now be looking to make use of the next-best thing.
The championships won March 18 moved the Avalanche into the Chipotle-USA Hockey Tier I Youth Nationals, which, for both the 16U and 18U age levels, are being held within the Atlantic District confines in the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester, Pennsylvania, April 5-9.
“This is the first time in four years that we’ve been here that we’ve had the opportunity to win on our home rink,” Avalanche 18U head coach Mark Lotito said after capturing the championship at the Ice House in Hackensack. “Now, to play nationals in Philly, which is in our district, is extremely exciting.”
Both Avalanche teams are full of players who are accustomed to playing on the national level.
“We only have five players who haven’t been to nationals,” Lotito said of his squad, which is made of up players who are returning to 18U nationals or have made it on the 16U level.
Similarly, the 16U team, under head coach Vinny Smith, has players who have made it at that level or have moved up from below.
“This is Vinny’s third year taking his 16U team to nationals,” 16U assistant coach Larry Robbins said. “I had the 15-Only group there last year.”
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Youth Tier I
14U: New Jersey Colonials
15-Only: Mercer Chiefs
16U: New Jersey Avalanche
18U: New Jersey Avalanche
Youth Tier II
14U PA: Palmyra Black
16U PA: Hershey White
18U PA: Quakers
14U NJ: New Jersey Wildcats Black
16U NJ: Jaguars Green
18U NJ: New Jersey Freeze
Girls Tier I
14U: Philadelphia Junior Flyers
16U: New Jersey Colonials
19U: New Jersey Colonials
Girls Tier II
16U: Princeton Tiger Lilies
19U: Montclair Blues
The Avalanche 18U team swept Virtua National, 4-1 and 5-3, in a best-of-three championship series.
Cooper Fensterstock had two goals and an assist in the first game while Tate Brandon made 21 saves in goal.
Oliver MacDonald had two goals in the clinching win when James Walton, Cole Edgerton and Fensterstock all had a goal and an assist. Cole Kodsi assisted on two goals.
Maxim Kouznetsov and Domenic Garozzo each had a goal and an assist for Virtua in Game 2.
“The emphasis every year with us is defense,” Lotito said. “Both teams teach defense first.”
The Avalanche 16U had two distinctly different games in their series with the Mercer Chiefs, winning a 12-1 blowout, then needing overtime to win the second game, 3-2.
Alexandros Gaffney had three goals and two assists in the big win. Alex Dominique also scored two goals while Michael Posma had a goal and three assists. John Lundy added a goal and two assists.
The Avalanche outshot the Chiefs, 14-2, in the second period while adding three goals for a 5-1 lead. They then broke the game open in the third period with the help of a 17-1 shot advantage.
Goalie Dylan Ringheiser kept the Chiefs in the second game, including standing up to intense pressure early in overtime.
The game remained tied through all of the third period despite a 17-2 shot advantage by the Avalanche, who led 55-18 in the game.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Mercer for their character and their compete,” Robbins said. “I thought their goalie played excellent and they defended with pride.”
Jarod Crespo’s drop pass on a rush up the middle set up Alex Laferriere to place the winner over Ringheiser’s shoulder.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.