Four overtimes, but only one district champion.
It was an epic game in the USA Hockey Michigan District Tournament that will be relived for years to come.
Compuware and Victory Honda Tier I 14U teams duked it out shift for shift to determine the first game of their best-of-three championship series at the Taylor Sportsplex on March 9.
The teams played an extra 35 minutes of game time past regulation before Compuware ended it in quadruple overtime for a 3-2 victory.
“That was an amazing game to be a part of,” Compuware coach Ryan Barnes said. “The kids were gutting it out and giving it all they had on both teams. It was one of the longest games I’ve ever been a part of.”
About midway through the fourth 10-minute overtime session, Compuware’s Dylan Duke fed Andrew Jeffers for the game winner.
“It was kind of a stop up and cross seam play to the back door,” Barnes said. “It was a nice play. It had to be because the goalie from Victory Honda had a great game.”
The players were fatigued, cramping and suffered sickness, but they all persevered.
“The thing that was so impressive was it was high paced, it was intense,” Barnes said. “It was real good hockey. Both teams wanted to win real bad.”
It was the culmination of an extremely long day at the rink for the 2003 players.
“We were happy to get out of there,” Barnes said. “I know some of the boys between periods were hungry. To get something to eat and get out of the rink — typically you show up for the rink a few hours before.”
It would be 12 hours later that the kids were back on the ice for Game 2 of the series. Compuware went up two goals before Victory Honda tied it. Compuware tallied the go-ahead goal with about seven minutes left and added two more scores, including an empty netter, to win the game 5-2 and capture the district title.
Earlier in the tournament, Compuware won its three round-robin games against Victory Honda, Fox Motors and Detroit HoneyBaked by a combined 27-2. Compuware took down the Oakland Jr. Grizzles 6-1 in the semifinals before moving on to face Honda for the title.
Compuware has been dominant all season, sporting a 60-5-5 record and outscoring its opponents 411-114. The team’s offense is incredible, averaging just under six goals per contest.
“We like to play a run-and-gun and open style, and obviously I think it’s key when you’re coaching young players when you get to higher levels the focus is more on defense,” Barnes said. “I know our focus has been trying to create offense and score goals.”
Compuware heads into nationals with a huge bull’s-eye on its back. But that won’t get the best of the players.
“I think it’s something we’re used to,” Barnes said. “It’s not new territory for us. Over the years teams want to beat us and we’ve just got to be ready for that challenge, and the weekend coming up is going to be no different. The stakes are higher than ever before with a national title on the line and I think our guys will be ready and it will be a lot of fun.”
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Youth Tier I
15 Only: Little Caesars
16U: Detroit Honeybaked
18U: Belle Tire
Youth Tier II
14U: Chelsea Chiefs
16U: Oakland Jr. Grizzlies
Girls Tier I
14U: Detroit Honeybaked
16U: Little Caesars
19U: Belle Tire
Girls Tier II
14U: Kensington Valley
16U: Kensington Valley
19U: Kensington Valley
At-Large Nationals Berth Winners
Girls Tier I
14U: Little Caesars
16U: Belle Tire
Girls Tier II
14U: Little Caesars
16U: Livonia Knights
Little Caesars Takes 15 Only Title
Kris Draper knew early in his team’s first game at the state tournament that his guys were locked in, focused and ready to go.
The Little Caesars Tier I 15 Only team kept that composure the entire tournament, finishing 6-0 to punch its ticket to nationals.
“That was probably some of the best hockey we played all year, and it was at the right time,” said Draper, who had a standout 20-year career in the NHL.
Little Caesars downed Fox Motors 5-0, Victory Honda 9-1 and Compuware 6-2, before beating Belle Tire 3-2 in the semifinals. In the best-two-of-three championship series, Little Caesars handled the Oakland Jr. Grizzles 4-0 in Game 1. That set up a fantastic second game.
Little Caesars had control, but the Grizzles sent the game into overtime. About halfway through the extra session, Little Caesars scored for a 3-2 victory to give the team the title.
“It was just getting bodies to the net, getting pucks to the net and it was great to see Garrett Szydlowski bang that one home for the OT game winner to give us the state championship,” said Draper, whose son, Kienan, is on the team.
As a 14U squad last season, Little Caesars advanced to the national semifinals before falling. That loss drives the players who are now on this year’s 15 team.
“We got a lot of experience last year and it’s what can happen in one game and how important it is from start to finish,” Draper said. “You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to play. You have to do it the right way. I’m a big believer in if you practice hard and do things right in practice it will carry over into the games. Certainly, when you get into big games, this young group of hockey players, they know how to play. They’ve been involved in a lot of big games.”
Little Caesars (53-12-4) heads into nationals as the top seed as No. 1 Minnesota Blades isn’t in the tournament.
“You want to have that target, you want to go in and be that team,” Draper said. “For this group, to be honest, it’s not really anything new. Going into states, we’ve been No. 1 or No. 2. Last year we went into nationals and we were No. 2. They’ve earned that right to be a top seed and now it’s up to us and them to make sure that we live up to it and be ready to go right from the get-go.”
Nationals At-Large Berth Winners
The following boys teams earned at-large bids to represent Michigan at nationals: Tier I 14U, Little Caesars, Victory Honda; Tier I 15 Only, Oakland Jr. Grizzles; Tier I 16U, Oakland Jr. Grizzles, Little Caesars.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc