USA Hockey’s National Champions
Four champions were crowned following the conclusion of USA Hockey’s national tournament. The six-day event took place across the 18U, 16U, 15O and 14U Tier-I age groups in two separate U.S. states. With more than 60 teams participating in 124 games, a season that began in early September finally reached its conclusion with the championship games on Monday.
The finale of the USA Hockey youth season proved to be a competitive display of talent amongst the top teams in the country. Maryland Heights, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas, collaborated to host teams from all four corners of the country including Alaska, Southern California, New England as well as Florida, and everyone in between. It’s fitting that all four boys Tier-I champs stemmed from four different USA Hockey Districts.
The No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the world were appropriately featured in the 14U finale. Shattuck-St. Mary’s had been a mainstay among top ‘06 teams all season long with high-profile prospects like Cole Eiserman, Mack Celebrini and Aidan Park. The Sabres had lost just one game all season long, and cruised their way through the national tournament out-scoring opponents 38-6 through five games.
Upstart program Bishop Kearney quickly climbed the world rankings in its first season, competing for the top spot and becoming a mainstay in the Top 10. BK came into the championship game on an 18-0-2 run that dated all the way back to February, and top prospect Christian Humphreys was among the tournament’s leading scorers. The team’s last defeat? An 8-3 drubbing at the hands of none other than Shattuck.
The rematch proved to be every bit of a heavyweight fight, with both teams flying out of the gate. Shattuck got out to a quick lead as anticipated, but every time the Sabres got out in front, BK was quick to respond and draw back to even. First, at 1-1 and then again at 2-2, as the game went to the third period in a deadlock. Two power-play goals from SSM’s two biggest contributors, first from Mack Celebrini and then by Cole Eiserman would open the floodgates. A 3-2 lead turned to 4-2, 4-2 climbed to 5-2. By the time the clock hit zeroes, Shattuck had finished its dominant season with one more dominant showing in the form of a 7-2 final.
Five of the six playoff games that led up to the HoneyBaked-Florida Alliance championship matchup were decided by just one goal, and four of those were decided by way of overtime or a shootout. The 15-only tournament was truly about who could survive and advance long enough to be the last one standing at the finish.
Florida and HB had split a pair of games during the regular season, and after being paired together in pool play, skated to a 2-1 shootout finish. Both teams arrived at the championship thanks in large part to shut-down defense, as Florida allowed a the third fewest goals in the tournament with nine, and HoneyBaked was second with eight goals against.
Surprisingly, an offensive explosion would determine a 15O champion, as HoneyBaked — propelled by a three-goal first period — stormed to a 6-3 championship win over Florida Alliance.
By the numbers, no other division was closer in terms of competitiveness than the 16U age group. 17 of the 31 games in the tournament were decided by just one goal. The North Jersey Avalanche and Colorado Thunderbirds accounted for five of those games and both needed overtime wins in the playoffs just to make it to the title game.
The Avs came in as the likely favorite, sitting atop the world rankings. However, Colorado was the one victorious when the two teams met in pool play, and won convincingly 5-2 last Thursday. Not only that, but Jack O’Rourke’s goal less than two minutes into the second period of the title game made it look like the Thunderbirds had another upset in the works.
It took almost 26 minutes of game action before top prospect Nicholas Mondenhauer made his mark for North Jersey, but once he did, the surge was on. His power-play goal was the tipping point for the Avs, as the tournament’s leading scorer Quentin Musty added two more goals from there, and Peter Klemm set up three goals as well. That snowballed into the Avalanche cruised to a dominating 5-1 victory and 16U national championship.
Other USA Hockey National Champions
18U Tier-I Boys: Rochester Coalition 4-2 over North Jersey Avalanche
19U Tier-I Girls: Chicago Mission 4-1 over Bishop Kearney Selects
16U Tier-I Girls: Little Caesars 5-2 over Minnesota Elite Vegas
14U Tier-I Girls: Chicago Mission 2-1 over Minnesota Green Giants
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