Nine teams win USA Hockey Districts, set sights on Nationals

USA Hockey accepted its first bids into the 2021 National tournament over the weekend. Three of the 12 districts — Mid-American, Rocky Mountains and Southeastern — hosted their regional playoffs to determine a champion and ultimately, a guaranteed spot at Nationals in April. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins Elite organization made a clean sweep of the Mid-American District, earning a bid at the 2004, 2005 and 2006 age groups. The 16U squad has been the undisputed No. 1 team in our World Rankings for much of the 2020-21 season, and after securing a bid to Nationals, certainly has to be the odds-on favorite to win the ‘04 championship next month.

The ‘06 Pens knocked off the Cleveland Barons in overtime 6-5 on Sunday and the ‘05s shut out the Ohio Blue Jackets 4-0 to clinch their respective bids.

The Rocky Mountain District tournament was hosted in Arizona, with teams from Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Utah. The Colorado Thunderbirds are Nationals bound at the ‘04 and ‘06 birth years while Dallas Stars Elite earned a bid at the ‘05 level. 

Colorado has been a Top-10 caliber 16U team for much of the season, with a 42-7-1 record. The ‘05 Stars Elite were featured in WHH’s first ever Game of the Week at the beginning of the season, and have gone 36-12-2 since then. And maybe one of the hotter teams to claim a bid this weekend, the ‘06 Thunderbirds have won 11 of their last 12 games, including the district final in overtime against the Arizona Bobcats.

In the Southeastern District, The Nashville Jr. Predators defeated Florida Alliance 3-2 in the 2004 final. Florida’s ‘05 team would be victorious, though, with a 5-2 win over Washington Little Caps. Team Maryland’s 3-0 shutout of Nashville would clinch their bid as well, as all three teams punch their ticket to Nationals at their respective age groups.

USA Hockey will host the National tournament at the 18U, 16U 15U and 14U age groups in April. The national tournament consists of 16 teams per age group, typically including 12 district champions, the host team and three at-large bids.

These nine teams across three age groups have secured their spots in the national tournaments, which are slated to begin on April 28 – May 3. The 14U and 15U age groups will take place in Dallas, Texas, while the 16U tournament will be in Maryland Heights, Missouri. Three other district champions will be decided in the Atlantic, Michigan and Pacific in early April.