Scoring hasn’t been an issue this season for the Chicago Mission Tier I 14U youth team.
The guys were averaging 3.8 goals per game heading into the USA Hockey Central District Tournament on March 16. The Mission exploded for 22 goals in three victories, but also got a great defensive effort, surrendering just one goal.
With that offensive and defensive balance, the Mission are going to be a tough out at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 14U Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 5-10.
“We were focused from the get-go,” Mission coach Gino Cavallini said. “Our first goal on Friday was 10 seconds into the game. The kids were ready to play. They worked hard. It’s a long grind, and when you finally get there you want to make sure you’re ready.”
The Mission downed Team Wisconsin 5-1 and then won their next two games by a combined 17-0.
“Our goaltending was great, our defensemen kept it simple and our offense and our speed in the offensive zone and the puck possession, we just wanted the puck,” Cavallini said. “When we don’t have the puck, we hunt it down and we’ve got the horses to do it. They just keep coming.”
Cavallini feels like his team is clicking after getting a healthy lineup for the first time since the fall. Forward Tyler Haskins was back on the ice and defenseman Simon Motew was dressed but did not play.
“We were decimated with injuries starting in August,” Cavallini said. “The boys had to learn how to play without some of their top players and to their credit, they figured it out. They’re playing hard and learned how to play the right way.”
Mission heads into nationals as winners of nine of their last 10 games. Cavallini has high expectations for his team.
“They’re all one-game tournaments,” Cavallini said. “We’ve played well against a lot of the top teams above us. We just have to prepare for that next team and not look any further ahead.”
Story continues below
Youth Tier I
14U: Chicago Mission
15-Only: St. Louis Blues
16U: Team Wisconsin
18U: Chicago Mission
Girls Tier I
14U: Madison Capitols
16U: Chicago Mission
19U: Chicago Mission
Girls Tier II
16U: Highland Park Falcons
19U: Wisconsin Selects
No. 1 vs. No. 2 Showdown
Team Wisconsin and Chicago Mission 16U are familiar foes.
The two squads squared off three times during the regular season with each team winning once and one tie. So, it was apropos that Team Wisconsin and Mission played another epic game in the district tournament.
“They’re all good games,” Mission coach Anders Sorensen said. “It was a really good 16U game. It was fast-paced, it was hard and there wasn’t much ice to work with out there. It was a fun game for the players to be a part of.”
It was a battle of two of the top teams in the country at 16U. Even though it was the first game of the tournament for both teams, the winner was going to be the frontrunner to grab the automatic qualifier for nationals.
“They get themselves up for those games,” Team Wisconsin coach Craig Johnson said. “The kids always love to compete against the Mission.”
Mission took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but Team Wisconsin pulled ahead 2-1.
“I thought the first period we were a little bit better, then we took a penalty and swung the momentum in the second period and they were better,” Sorensen said. “In the third, I thought it was pretty even back and forth.”
Mission came back to tie it to send the game to overtime.
“We had a great chance with 4 seconds left and we had a breakaway in overtime with 10 seconds left, and we just couldn’t capitalize,” Sorensen said.
In the shootout, Mission had a 2-0 lead, but Team Wisconsin scored on its final three shots in the best-of-five format to knot it at 3-3.
In sudden death, Mission’s John Johnson was stopped by Team Wisconsin goalie Garrett Larsen. Team Wisconsin’s Jake Schmaltz, who tied the shootout in his team’s final opportunity, went again and netted the game winner.
After the exciting win, Team Wisconsin takes some momentum into nationals.
“The kids are riding a pretty good high,” Johnson said.
Mission received an at-large bid for the national tournament. Sorensen is hoping for a rematch with Team Wisconsin deep into nationals.
“Yeah, you never know,” Sorensen said. “But there’s a lot of other good teams out there, so we both have our work to do before we run into each other.”
Christening a New Facility
The Central District youth tournament got a special treat this year.
The event was held at the MB Ice Arena, a state-of-the-art practice facility for the Chicago Blackhawks, which opened in late November of last year.
“Beautiful facility and probably the premier rink in the U.S.,” St. Louis Blues Tier I 15-Only coach Jordan Janes said. “Many great things about the rink. Everything is clean and well taken care of.”
Players, coaches and fans loved the opportunity to check out the NHL facility and utilize the two rinks.
“The facility was nice and the ice was great all weekend,” Cavallini said. “It’s a fantastic facility, it really is.”
MB Ice Arena serves as the home rink for the Chicago Mission Tier I 16U team, so coach Sorensen’s guys know the facility well.
“The facility is awesome,” Sorensen said. “The lighting, the acoustics in there are first class and our off-ice facilities are better than most NHL teams.”
Nationals At-large Qualifiers
The following youth teams earned at-large bids to represent the Central District at nationals: Tier I 15 Only, Chicago Mission and Team Wisconsin; Tier I 16U, Chicago Mission and Chicago Young Americans; Tier I 18U, CarShield.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.