Jordan Janes knew the USA Hockey Central District tournament was going to be a fierce competition.
Three of the top teams in the country in Tier I 15-Only would be battling for the automatic bid to nationals, so Janes’ players on the St. Louis Blues needed to come ready to play. They were primed once the puck dropped.
The Blues outscored their opponents 18-3 en route to a 3-0 record and a trip to the 2018 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 15-Only Nationals in Plymouth, Michigan, on April 5-10.
“Just with the states that they are, obviously historically between Wisconsin and Illinois, you have two powerhouse states that are a roadblock for you to get to nationals,” Janes said. “Any team that comes out of the Central District at any level really has a chance to win a national championship.”
The Blues opened with a 9-0 victory over the Iowa Wild. That set the tone for the entire weekend held at the MB Ice Arena in Chicago on March 16-18.
“It was a great weekend for us,” Janes said. “Obviously, these districts are pretty competitive and one game can change the circumstance of the weekend. With three straight games, every game is essentially a must-win for your squad.”
St. Louis had its toughest game of the tournament against Team Wisconsin. It was the first time the two heavyweights battled this season.
The Blues led 3-0 after two periods before Team Wisconsin turned it up another gear.
“They came out just flying and had an incredible third period,” Janes said. “They put the pressure on us and scored two in the third and really it came down to the wire. We did a great job defensively in the last couple of minutes to weather the storm.”
In their final game of the tournament, the Blues manhandled Chicago Mission 6-1.
“We just knew that Wisconsin was going to be a heck of a battle, same thing with the Mission,” Janes said.
Janes’ guys were clicking on all phases in every one of the tournament games.
“We had two goalies that split time and did a phenomenal job for us,” Janes said. “Just really sound between the net. Our D played phenomenally — we had four D on the weekend. That’s a tough task to step up when you have four defensemen and you’re playing three games in a weekend that are pretty competitive. Really proud of the job that they did back there in keeping it simple and we were extremely effective.”
Goalie Mitchell Day played well in net against Team Wisconsin and his teammate Jack Boschert was excellent against Mission.
“On the offensive end, we had all four of our lines producing, and that was evident throughout the weekend,” Janes said. “There wasn’t one line that really stood out. It was a testament to how deep we are up front as a group and everyone buying into what’s in the best interest of the team.”
The Blues have had a balanced, consistent team all season, one that has outscored its opponents 211-65.
St. Louis — whose core group has played together for years — has used four lines of forwards, five defensemen and two goalies.
“From our perspective, there’s not really anybody that stands out,” Janes said. “I really think it’s a group, that’s what I like about our team is we’re really deep and they have the right mentality.”
It’s a big thing for the Blues players to head to nationals — the first time for every player on the team.
“I’m really excited for our boys,” Janes said. “This is the third year the coaching staff has been with this group, so we’ve had a lot of these players now three years. We have a great group of kids and a really strong locker room. I’m very proud and excited for the season that these boys have put together.”
Even though it is their first time at nationals, Janes isn’t expecting his players to be satisfied with just making an appearance.
“You look at the success we’ve had on our team this season and the year that’s gone, obviously, our expectation is to go there and compete to win,” Janes said. “I think we’ve put together now over three years a team that’s worthy of this. And I think they’ve shown that they’re able to compete with anybody in this birth year. The way these tournaments work, it’s anybody’s game. Over a weekend, so many things can factor into the success of a team, or over a week, in this case.
“Again, this group here, I’m really excited about and looking forward to seeing what they can do. I’m extremely confident in our team and I’m excited for them to show what they have.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.