WAYNE, N.J. — The four images on the lower backs of their jerseys represent the presidents memorialized on Mount Rushmore and proudly declare to anyone chasing them that Team South Dakota is on the ice.
Now, they have four national championships — all of them claimed in the same tournament since 2012 — to take home to South Dakota.
Nathan Mohr had a hat trick, including the first of his team’s three short-handed goals Monday morning when Team South Dakota captured the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U Nationals Division 1A title with an 8-1 romp over the Park City (Utah) Ice Miners at the Ice Vault.
The win was the latest impressive effort by South Dakota, which scored at least seven goals in every game and held each opponent to two or less. The win over the tournament’s other pool winner and unbeaten team left South Dakota with a 44-6 victory margin for the tournament.
“We’re a deep team from top to bottom,” said Zach Jurgens, who picked up his first national title as head coach after being an assistant on two previous championship teams. “Our first two are Line 1A and Line 1B.
“Our third and fourth lines add depth, we’re deep on the back end and we have solid goalies.”
Mohr and linemate Brendan Malwitz wound up tournament scoring leaders 1A and 1B.
Malwitz led in assists with 10 while Mohr led in goals with nine. Malwitz edged Mohr, 16-15, for the points lead.
“I’m more of a playmaker and he’s more of a sniper,” said Malwitz, who also plays with Mohr, the team’s season scoring leader, in the winter high school season with the Sioux Falls Flyers.
South Dakota wound up with five of the top six and six of the top eight scorers in the tournament. Walker Schlitz had 12 points, Derrick Brown and Spencer Wedin added 10 each and Nathaniel Fanning had nine.
Trey Ponto had the last two short-handed goals in the championship, connecting on the same Park City power play in the third period.
“We have some smart penalty killers,” Jurgens said. “When they get the puck, they’re dangerous in open ice.”
Team South Dakota, made up of the state’s top high school players after a tryout in the summer, plays together in the fall before breaking up while the players compete with their high school teams.
As a result, eight of the team’s players had two national tournament shots. Two players from Rapid City and six from Sioux Falls made it to nationals with their high school teams.
Malwitz, Mohr, Ponto, Nathan Fanning, Jonah Weems and Nathan Moon were part of the Sioux Falls team that started 3-0 in the Combined Division at the Chipotle-USA Hockey High School Nationals.
Mohr opened the scoring on a short-handed goal 3:34 into the final, but Park City tied it on the next power-play chance, getting a goal from Zane St. Martin just 1:05 later.
The first period ended with an 18-8 South Dakota shot advantage, but still a 1-1 tie.
“Out here on the bench, everyone was still pumped up,” Mohr said.
Park City had one of its strongest stretches of the game in the first few minutes of the second period, but Mohr and Schlitz scored 37 seconds apart for a 3-1 lead 5:30 into the second period and South Dakota ran away from there.
Mohr competed his hat trick before the second period ended and South Dakota scored four more times in the third period.
Malwitz, who centered the puck for Mohr to score from the close range on the second-period game-winner, had two national tournament disappointments to help drive him.
“It was really hard to lose and go home on Sunday when you want to be playing in the championship,” Malwitz said of a national semifinal loss in the 16U tournament last spring.
Malwitz made sure there were no such problems this time around. He joined Schlitz with two goals and two assists while Mohr added three assists in Sunday’s 7-0 semifinal win over the Charleston (South Carolina) Junior Stingrays.
Abraham Partridge had 14 saves in the semifinal shutout.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.