Big Winners at 2023 Pacific Districts

Feb 28, 2023 | World Hockey Hub

The 2007-born Los Angeles Jr. Kings celebrate winning the 15O Division at the 2023 Pacific District playoffs.
Photo from Instagram | @liam_collins_72

Jr. Kings, Jr. Ducks take multiple divisions at USA Hockey district playoffs

The youth hockey season is nearing its end, and USA Hockey Nationals are on the horizon. Teams from across the U.S. look to win their respective district playoffs in order to earn one of the 12 automatic bids to the national tournament, slated to begin on March 29th.

Two of those bids have already been awarded at each of the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U age groups. And, over this past weekend, four more teams punched their ticket to nationals by winning the Pacific District playoffs.

The Pacific District bids — which consists of youth hockey teams from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — were awarded to two teams from the Anaheim Jr. Ducks organization and two teams from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings organization.

They join the following teams who have also earned automatic bids to USAH Nationals:

14U Nationals

Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minnesota)

Los Angeles Jr. Kings (Pacific)

15O Nationals

Neponset Valley River Rats (Massachusetts)

Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minnesota)

Los Angeles Jr. Kings (Pacific)

16U Nationals

Boston Little Bruins (Massachusetts)

Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minnesota)

Anaheim Jr. Ducks (Pacific)

18U Nationals

Boston Jr. Eagles (Massachusetts)

Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minnesota)

Anaheim Jr. Ducks (Pacific)

Jr. Kings go undefeated in 14U division

The No. 25-ranked ‘08 team in the world, Los Angeles Jr. Kings displayed their talent and depth with a 5-0-0 showing among fellow 2008-born teams. Outscoring opponents in the round-robin stage by a combined 13-2, they continued their torrid pace by besting the California Wave and Team Alaska to cement their championship. 

The high-flying trio of Brendan Russell, Tyus Sparks and Noah Davidson were standouts. Each collected eight points for the Jr. Kings, with Sparks and Davidson doing most of their damage in the semifinal and championship games. 

Penalty kill aids Jr. Kings pursuit of 15O division

The ‘07 Los Angeles Jr. Kings made quick work of a four-game schedule that saw them best teams such as the San Jose Jr. Sharks, California Golden Bears and Las Vegas Jr. Golden Knights. Luke Norcross led all players with four goals and seven points, tallying three of them on the power play. Additionally, 11 players totaled at least two points across four games. Norcross would also finish first among all players in the division in points. 

However, special teams — especially the penalty kill — is where the team really had their time to shine. Killing off 13 of 15 penalties, the penalty killing unit was also able to collect a shorthanded goal as well. On the man advantage, the Jr. Kings found the back of the net four times across 15 opportunities. Seven players recorded at least one power-play point, with Norcross leading the charge with three (2G, 1A). 

The power play unit would also secure the team the division championship. In the final game against the Jr. Sharks, the score was knotted at 1-1 in the third period. With Griffin Brown in the box for interference, Timofei Runtso finished off a passing play with Benjamin Kaven to put the Jr. Kings up 2-1 with 8:48 left. The tally would stand as the game-winning goal, as the Jr. Sharks were unable to find the equalizer for the remainder of regulation. 

A fitting ending for the No. 7 ranked team in the country

Jr. Ducks use high-powered offense for 16U championship

One team separated themselves from the other 2006-born teams at the Pacific District playoffs. It  was the Anaheim Jr. Ducks

After the round-robin stage of games, the top five scorers all hailed from the Jr. Ducks, with Tanner Hendricks topping the list with eight points. He would add three more points in the semifinal and championship games to push his point total to 11 (3G, 8A). Closely behind him were Ty Ziadi (3G, 7A) and Colin Frank (5G, 4A). 

When a team’s penalty kill is better than others power play, odds are that the club is destined for good things. That is what happened with the Jr. Ducks and their run to the 16U division championship. While scoring one power-play goal, they flipped the script on the penalty kill by notching four short-handed goals. Three of which came in their opening game against the Las Vegas Jr. Golden Knights

In the title tilt, they faced off against the Junior Ice Dogs, who they defeated in the round-robin stage by a 3-2 final. The second time around, things would not be as close. Frank and teammate Brendan Dunphy each recorded multi-point performances en route to a 4-0 victory. Goaltender Jack Kavetsky also stopped the 22 shots he faced as well. 

Jr. Ducks regroup after round robin, defeat Jr. Sharks for 18U division

After a rocky round-robin performance that saw them go 1-0-2, the Anaheim Jr. Ducks rallied in their semifinal and championship appearances to take the 18U division title. 

Opening their schedule with a large win against the Las Vegas Jr. Golden Knights, it seemed as if the road to the championship game might be a cakewalk for the Jr. Ducks. However, they proceeded to drop consecutive games in overtime and a shootout. The pendulum quickly shifted to a potentially early exit instead.

They bounced back with a 4-2 win against Team Alaska to put the Jr. Ducks into the finale against the San Jose Jr. Sharks. There, they took a 1-0 lead into the third period before the offense really picked up.

Each side would strike twice in the final frame, with Makar Klochkov notching a goal and an assist. Owen Crudale backstopped his squad with 34 saves to help the Jr. Ducks nab their second district trophy of the weekend. 

USA Hockey District playoffs will continue over the next two weeks. Michigan, Mid-American, 14U Massachusetts and Atlantic qualifiers will take place this week. WHH will have continued coverage of each of the 12 USA Hockey District playoffs, as well as Nationals next month!  

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