WAYNE, N.J. — The Atlanta Phoenix and Atlanta Fire met in September, October, November, January, February and March.
Why not April?
After going 5-5-1 against each other in a season-long battle for bragging rights in the Atlanta suburbs, the Duluth-based Phoenix and the Alpharetta-based Fire got together one more time in the New York City area and added national supremacy to the stakes.
The Phoenix, who began the season needing five tries to beat the Fire, were the best in the end, posting a 9-3 victory at the Ice Vault in Monday’s Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U Nationals championship game for Division 2A.
“We were thinking this was the way the tournament would go,” Phoenix defenseman and team captain Trenten Heyde said. “That was the hardest team we were playing this season.
“We were ready for them.”
So hard, that the mounting early losses were a source of anger among the Fire early in the season.
On the final day of the season, however, the Phoenix played it cool.
With the teams combining for 30 infractions for 95 penalty minutes, the Phoenix power play became the game’s deciding factor. The Phoenix went 6-for-15 on the power play and added another goal on a penalty shot.
“I think we had more discipline,” said Phoenix coach Yan Kaminsky, whose team took half as many penalties than its rival for fewer than half as many minutes. “That was the difference in the game. It’s hockey. I try to teach them that hockey’s about respect and discipline. I think we did a good job with that.
“The guys bought into that. It didn’t matter how excited they were. They tried to keep a level keel.”
Sunday’s action assured that the 2A championship banner was going back to the Atlanta area. That much was certain when the Phoenix and the Fire both won in the first two rounds of bracket play.
The Phoenix did not need long in the final to indicate which team was likely to head home as champion. After scoring the game’s first three goals, the Phoenix led by at least that many through the entire second and third periods.
Heyde, who took the penalty shot for a 3-0 lead 10:17 into the game, and Jaden Berezinski each scored two goals. Nathaniel MacNeill had a goal and two assists while Carson Glenn added a goal and an assist. Mitchell Koss scored to finish with a tournament-high seven goals, one more than Glenn. Koss also led the way with 12 points in six games.
In a competitive tournament where none of the 12 teams managed to go undefeated, the two Atlanta teams used strong defense to get through the quarterfinals and semifinals, setting up the final by allowing just five goals combined in four games.
Special teams had helped the Fire pull away from the Maine Moose, 4-1, in the semifinals. Dante Richardson scored on the power play and Lucas Gustafsson followed with a short-handed goal 3:10 later to open a 3-0 lead in the second period. The Fire prevented Maine from winning its second national title in three years at the Ice Vault.
Harrison Phillips, who had two assists, and Glenn scored two goals each when the Phoenix shut out the Carolina Eagles, 7-0, in the other semifinal. All of the scoring took place in the first two periods when the Phoenix outshot the Eagles, 46-16. Tyler Ennis made 22 saves in the shutout.
“All of the guys here really deserved this,” Heyde said. “I’m proud to stand next to each and every one of them.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.