WEST CHESTER - When head coach Matthew Plante arrived in South Kent to coach the CCYHA Capitals 18U team, he wondered what it would be like to go to a national tournament.
In his previous four years of getting to the national stage, the question transformed into what it would be like to be a national champion.
On his fifth consecutive appearance, the question was answered.
A Zach Schrock goal with 6:33 left broke a 2-2 deadlock against the Cape Cod Whalers, and the Capitals added two empty net goals to win the Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18U National Championship.
After trailing 2-0, Cape Cod tied it up thanks to goals from Jack Rathbone and Jay O’Brien with 9:36 left in regulation.
But for the Capitals, facing this adversity was nothing new.
“I just wanted us to maintain our focus and manage our emotion there and just finish it,” Plante said. “We talked about it all week, we had been down several games this week, been tied. What we talked about was we’re still in a position to win, and that’s where we were and we’re fine.”
When Schrock put home what would eventually be the championship-winning goal, emotions had taken over.
“I don’t even know how to describe it, I went back to the bench and immediately started crying,” Shrock said. “It was the greatest feeling of my life.”
The tears quickly dried up when Schrock came to the realization that there was still six minutes, 33 seconds separating he and his team from the ultimate victory.
“I just think on the bench getting everybody calm and knowing that we have those last few minutes was the biggest key for us,” he said.
Going up against a potent Whalers attack, Plante highlighted the team’s defensive effort in the second period especially as a key in holding their opposition to just two goals.
“I thought we outworked them in our defensive zone, we spelled their chances, we get that goal late so I was really pleased with that,” he said. “I felt like our response after that tying goal was huge, we kind of took the game back over they tied it and that’s why we’re here now.”
CCYHA forward Shane Pinto added two goals, and Jake Veilleux and Kyle Haskins got in the scoring column as well.
Playing in front of a raucous fan group and surrounded by some of his best friends, Shrock made it clear that this went beyond a group of teenagers winning a hockey tournament.
“The community, everybody being here is crazy,” he said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to win it with any other group, this group is great, the community, the South Kent School, it’s amazing.”