AMHERST, N.Y. — There was "free" hockey on display at the Northtown Center in Amherst, New York, for the USA Hockey New York District Tournament on March 18. Two teams made their way to the 2018 Chipotle-USA Hockey Nationals via overtime, with one game needing double overtime.
On the flip side, a number of other teams dominated their groups en route to nationals. All told, seven New York teams will be traveling to different parts of the country in April to compete for a national title.
Goaltending Battle Extraordinaire
The Tier II 18U battle between the Syracuse Blazers and the Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles seemed like it would last forever. This was because two goaltenders stood on their heads all game.
Finally, Syracuse took the marathon contest, filled with near misses and great saves, 2-1.
Nearly five periods of hockey were needed and with 17-minute periods, that translated into 81:26 of hockey. An astounding 111 shots were fired on net. Perhaps just as many missed the net. And an unofficial count had at least a half dozen shots ringing the pipes.
The winning goalie, Jack Doren, made 48 saves. Niagara's Jason Lupp stopped 60.
The teams traded first period goals. First, Nicholas Peters scored for Niagara at 9:19. Robert Welch tied it at 12:26. It was his tournament-leading eighth goal.
The teams then went exactly 69 minutes before the red light lit again, at least officially.
Syracuse thought they had a goal a minute into the third period, but it was waved off. A few minutes later, a Syracuse breakaway resulted in a shot off the crossbar.
In the first overtime, the Blazers again hit the crossbar. In the second extra period, Niagara rang one off the post. Just before that, a Syracuse breakaway attempt went wide.
Multiple times, close-range deflections were thwarted by the lightning-quick reflexes of the goalies. Many times, loose pucks in the crease were barely cleared away just in time by defenders. When the goalies did make the rare mistake, open net shots could not be connected on because of bouncing pucks.
Fatigue set in, in some cases more so for the fans than the players. Finally, at 13:26 of the second overtime, a rebound from Bryan O'Mara's shot from the right side went in the other direction to the circle.
Lupp had trouble recovering as he was off balance. Matt Leveroni swooped in, and though he hesitated, still was able to shoot it into the open half of the nearside of the net as Lupp desperately dove across.
Syracuse will be heading to Green Bay, Wisconsin, after some much-needed sleep.
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Youth Tier I
15-Only: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
16U: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
18U: PAL Jr. Islanders
Youth Tier II
14U: Skaneateles Lakers
16U: Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder
18U: Syracuse Blazers
Girls Tier I
14U: Valley Eagles
19U: Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles
Girls Tier II
16U: Brewster Lady Bulldogs
It's Not Over Till It's Over
At the same time, the Tier I 14U final also went to overtime with a mighty comeback.
The Buffalo Jr. Sabres built up a 3-1 lead after two periods over Perinton, also known as the Rochester Monarchs. Perinton scored first, but Buffalo got three unanswered goals. It appeared the game was virtually done.
But nobody told Perinton. They scored twice in the third period to force overtime and then won it, 4-3, with Anthony Agostinelli's second goal at 4:37 of the extra period.
Agostinelli came down the wing and put a nicely-placed shot over the goalie's blocker.
Perinton's coach, Scott Nichol, explained how his team kept their focus despite trailing such a strong opponent.
"The schedule we played all year long, we probably had the fourth- or fifth-hardest schedule in the nation. We've been in that situation before. We have our system. We have our work ethic. We've been really good all tournament in the third period."
Perinton outscored their opponents in the third period, 13-0.
Now they are off to their toughest schedule at nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"We're [going] there to win it," Nichol said. "We played all those teams, so we are not going there star struck. We're going there to win it. That's our attitude. We're excited."
The Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder and Cheektowaga Warriors of Tier II 16U had to wait an extra hour before hitting the ice for their final. That's because they were scheduled after the double overtime contest.
Once they did, they played a hard-hitting game that Massena took 3-1 with a goal in each period.
Massena opened up a 2-0 lead on goals by Chris Paige (on the power play) and Jacob Brothers. Cheektowaga got one back right off a face off.
Paige scored again late in the third when a pass came out from behind the net from Payton Felix. Paige fired a rocket one-timer from the slot.
Massena heads to Wayne, New Jersey for nationals.
The Tier I 15-Only Buffalo Jr. Sabres blew out the Long Island Royals, 10-3. Buffalo beat Long Island in round robin play, 10-0.
All told, Buffalo outscored their opponents 41-6 in just four games.
They now head for stiffer competition in Plymouth, Michigan.
The Buffalo Jr. Sabres Tier I 16U squad also won big over their final opponent, Perinton, 7-2.
The Jr. Sabres did need a shootout to beat the PAL Jr. Islanders in pool play. Otherwise, they won their other two games by 9-0 and 7-1 margins, before edging out the Long Island Gulls, 3-2, in the semifinal.
They head to Philadelphia.
The Skaneateles Lakers took command of their Tier II 14U championship with three goals in the third period for the runaway 6-1 victory over the GNY Stars.
Charlie Major and Jed Brazo each scored twice and Adam Casper made 16 saves for the win. Skaneateles returns to Amherst for the national tournament.
The PAL Jr. Islanders started out in dominating fashion in their Tier I 18U final, leading the Buffalo Regals, 4-0, after two periods.
However, Buffalo put a scare in PAL, scoring three times in the third with two shorthanded goals sandwiched around an even-strength tally.
A late Jr. Islanders penalty, coupled with Buffalo pulling their goalie, produced a six-on-four opportunity. However, the Jr. Islanders withstood the pressure, scoring a shorthanded empty net goal to clinch the game, 5-3.
PAL travels to Philadelphia as well.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.