ASHWAUBENON, Wis. — Some teams ride a hot goaltender to a national title.
For the Ashburn Xtreme 18U Tier II squad, it could be its potent offense that makes the difference.
Ashburn’s high-octane attack was clicking on all cylinders in its opening-round game at the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U Nationals at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center on Thursday. The Xtreme put up four goals in each of the first two periods to roll 8-5 over the Twin Bridges Lightning in a 2A Division matchup.
“Overall, I thought we had a solid game,” Ashburn coach Bill Hughes said. “We got off to a little bit of a slow start, which teams tend to do sometimes. We got through the first period and got the cobwebs shaken out. The second period we dominated and got the lead back up again. We came out in the third period prepared and took care of business.”
The offensive outburst was nothing new for Ashburn (42-7-4). It’s the 13th time this season the Xtreme have netted eight or more goals in a game.
Yes, the 13th.
“It’s typical for us to put up eight goals, but I think we came in a little cocky,” Ashburn forward Tyler Heidt said. “Our league isn’t as talented as our whole team is, so I think we came in a little too cocky and it was a wakeup call when they put up two [goals] first.”
The guys know now is not the time to get cocky. Ashburn has a large bull’s-eye on its back. The Virginia-based Xtreme is one of the top 18U Tier II teams in the country and the favorite in 2A.
“They’re used to it,” Hughes said about his team having a target. “It’s been that way at regional level and the state level, so we’re kind of used to that. We try to walk into the rink and be very humble and kind of like workman mentality and do our job. Strictly business.”
Twin Bridges led 2-0 before Ashburn snapped out of it and scored eight of the game’s next 10 goals. That’s in typical Xtreme fashion. According to Hughes, his team trailed by six goals in one game this season but came back to win.
That only happens because of a tightened up defensive effort and the offense going wild. In its six previous games leading up to nationals, the Xtreme averaged 7.17 goals per game. For the season, the team has scored 325 goals, 6.13 a contest.
“We just have a plethora of guys that can just put the puck in the back of the net,” Hughes said. “They’ve got great work ethic, they play well as a team, they’re unselfish and they’re just really talented.”
Ashburn, which is now 20-1-1 in its last 22 games, has used a balanced offensive attack all season. Usually it’s the first line of Mitch Rebholz, James Stephens and Max Judson tallying the majority of the team’s points. But in the opening round of nationals, the second line of Taylor Kielb, Tyler Heidt and Matthew Rosenberger broke loose. The trio tallied six goals — four by Kielb — and 12 points to pace the team.
“That line as well as the other two lines have each had their moments [this season],” Hughes said. “Sometimes it’s just one line like today, their line was on fire, other times it was the entire team or a couple guys. They were just dominant today.”
“I think it just fires up the boys, because if our first line’s not producing, it’s on us,” said Heidt, who notched a goal and two assists. “Our line is just as talented as the first line, so it just fires the whole team up when our second line can score that many.”
Rosenberger noted the key to the line’s success is familiarity of one another since they have played together all season.
“I was playing with Tyler Heidt last year, so have a lot of team chemistry,” said Rosenberger, who had a goal and three helpers in Thursday’s victory. “In practice, we just keep working the same fundamentals, and we just worked well today.”
Heidt believes his team is strong offensively because it uses its speed to wear down opponents.
“In practice, we’re always going 100 percent,” Heidt said. “We make quick passes, touch passes and we’re calling for the puck non-stop. You’re always hearing someone on the ice calling for the puck.”
The Xtreme players have a fun time playing in such a prolific scoring offense.
“Especially in nationals, it just makes it even better,” Rosenberger said. “When you can put up that many goals, it just makes you think what you’re going to be doing for the rest of the tournament. It gets you really hopefully.”
If Ashburn keeps up its offensive barrage throughout the weekend, it could be celebrating a national championship on Monday. That’s something that has eluded the players the last few years.
“A lot of these guys have been coming to nationals, getting to the quarterfinals, semifinals but just not quite making it,” Rosenberger said. “This is the last year for a lot of us, we’re looking to get this win at nationals.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.