When Team Wisconsin scored 1:26 into the third period on a goal from Sam Stange to cut the Chicago Mission's lead in half, the age-old adage looked like it was set to claim another victim.
But Landon Slaggert's second goal of the game with 5:06 left restored the two-goal cushion for the Mission, who went on to defeat Team Wisconsin 3-1 and capture the 2018 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championship.
Slaggert opened the scoring in the first period on a two-on-one feed from teammate Cam Thiesing, who also found the back of the net for Chicago on a tremendous shorthanded effort just less than four minutes later.
For both Slaggert and Thiesing, winning the national title was the perfect way to end a long year.
"It was great, we finally finished the job that we’ve been working at all season and it’s nice just to celebrate with all the boys,” Slaggert said.
"All the days on and off the ice, they finally paid off," Thiesing added. "It’s an unbelievable feeling to celebrate with Slags and the rest of the team here, it’s awesome.”
Mission head coach Anders Sorensen praised the contributions the duo provided for the team not just in the championship, but throughout the entire tournament.
“The last two games I thought they were spectacular the way they played the game," Sorensen said. "They play the right side of the puck, they didn’t cheat the game and that’s part of why they were getting a lot of chances to make plays, I’m really happy for them, they carried our team offensively but they did a lot of things defensively too."
With just a few minutes remaining in the opening period and Wisconsin on the man advantage, a loose puck found its way out to center ice. Going shoulder-to-shoulder with a Wisconsin defender, Thiesing was able to corral the puck and put it past goalie Garret Larsen.
"That was a huge goal, that was an unbelievable play by Cam," Sorensen said. "The way he fought through and outmuscled the guy and then to make a great deke on the goalie was fun to watch.”
After Wisconsin had pulled within one, Chicago was tasked with regaining the form and confidence that had allowed them to push out to a 2-0 lead.
To the Mission's credit, they kept a high-octane Team Wisconsin offense from finding that crucial tying goal, highlighted by the ability to stay out of the box. After committing nine penalties in their semifinal win over Oakland, Chicago was only penalized three times.
"I thought we did a good job of taking the middle of the ice away the whole time, pushing them on the outside and even in our zone we collapsed and took away their chances in the slot," Sorensen said. "The other thing we really stressed before the game was the power play, I thought we did a great job on the PK all game."
"That was the big message in the locker room before the game even started" Thiesing added. "These penalties would kill us if we started taking them so we had to calm down and not take any.”
In the end, the PA announcer said it best: Mission accomplished.