Nationals Notebook: Day 2

Mar 30, 2023 | World Hockey Hub

Photo from Instagram | @nolan_caffey16
Photo from Instagram | @nolan_caffey16

Shattuck, Mission secure first two spots in 16U playoff round

Craig Peterson, remote coverage of 16U Nationals

There were still 14 games of pool-play action left to be played at the 16U USA Hockey Nationals. However, Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Chicago Mission had already secured spots in the next round.

Mission’s 9-2 win over Team North Dakota and Shattuck’s 7-1 win over the Boston Little Bruins guaranteed they would finish as the top two seeded teams in the USA Division. Now, the top two teams are slated to play against each other on Friday. The outcome of that game will determine who is the 1-seed and who is the 2-seed, but both clubs can rest easy Thursday night knowing they’ll make it to the weekend regardless of the outcome of Game 3.

Eero Butella’s four-point performance helped fuel Mission to its dominant win over North Dakota. He leads all skaters in the tournament with four goals and eight points. Teammate Frank DeRosa tops all defensemen in scoring as well, with four points.

Little Caesars, North Jersey Avalanche lock up playoff spots ahead of Friday matchup

The top two seeds in the NHL Division are set to play Friday at noon. It may be a bit anticlimactic though, as both Little Caesars and North Jersey Avalanche have secured spots in the playoffs as well. Similar to Shattuck and Mission, the order may not be finalized but the participants are locked in. Caesars is 2-0-0, as are the Avs, and the two teams will break that deadlock at noon.

With both teams comfortably moving on to the quarterfinals, that means four of the eight playoff spots are already spoken for, with eight games left to play.

While Compuware hasn’t yet clinched a spot like the four previously mentioned teams, it has put itself in the driver’s seat heading into Friday. Michael Barron scored the game-winning goal against Mount St. Charles with 70 seconds left in regulation on Wednesday. That win, plus a dominant showing against the Nashville Jr. Predators on Thursday means Compuware controls its own destiny. A third win obviously pushes them on to the playoffs, but even in defeat on Friday, the Detroit-based squad could advance to the elimination rounds.

Photo by Michael Caples | Take Your Shot Photography

Miller’s Hat Trick Fuels Biggest Surprise of the 14U Tournament Thus Far

Craig Peterson, on-site at 14U Nationals

It was less than five minutes into the game between Chicago Mission and Pittsburgh Vengeance. There were just four or five shots on goal recorded on the jumbotron overhead, yet three of them had resulted in goals for Pittsburgh. Two of those goals came off the stick of forward Sean Miller

Mission came into the matchup — and the 14U USA Hockey Nationals — as heavy favorites. They entered the tournament ranked No. 2 in the country, as well as the 2-seed in the field of 16 teams. Mission rolled the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes 5-1 on the first day of Nationals. Meanwhile, its Day 2 opponent in Pittsburgh was out-shot, out-chanced and out-played by Bishop Kearney. All signs pointed in favor of Kalder Varga, Abraham Barnett and the Chicago Mission on Thursday.

Mission even controlled much of the play out of the gate. However, two odd-man rushes and a power-play goal allowed Pittsburgh to get on the board first. Miller’s first goal came off a line rush when he wired a wrist shot over Donovan Dunlay’s shoulder. Three minutes later, Jacob Keisel made it 2-0 for Pittsburgh with a shot from the blue line. Then, with 7:34 left in the opening period, Miller scored his second of the game on a power play to put the Vengeance on top 3-0.

Pittsburgh was able to force Mission to play its style of hockey. Much of the game felt like it took place in a phone booth. Tough board battles, scrums for loose pucks and very little time or space for a much more skilled Chicago team. Eventually, Schaeffer Gordon-Carroll — who had a goal and an assist — Varga, Barnett and co., were able to generate some offense and cut into the deficit. However, Mission was unable to overcome, and a third goal from Miller as well as Jacob Gilbert’s first goal of the tournament put the game out of reach at 7-3. 

Tournament Implications of 14U Vengeance’s upset over Mission

For a USA Hockey Nationals tournament that has basically been all chalk through the first 12 games, the 7-3 win for Pittsburgh is a shock to the system. Miller and teammate Caden Harvery are tied for second in the tournament in scoring with six points apiece. Goalie Giovanni Scally impressed as well with 33 saves in the win. It was his first action of the tournament.

Pittsburgh still needs some things to break its way in order to advance to the elimination rounds. However, Miller’s performance at least keeps them in the hunt heading into Friday. 

A regulation win over the Jr. Canes would likely be enough to secure the second spot. Mission and BK go head-to-head on the final day. I believe that BK at 2-0-0 has unofficially secured one of the two spots out of the Olympic Pool. However, if Mission beats Bishop Kearney, it opens the door to the possibility of a three-way tie, and tiebreakers being the deciding factor. 

14U National championship likely to go through Shattuck

If Shattuck-St. Mary’s doesn’t win the 14U USA Hockey Nationals, the eventual winner will certainly have to go through them to get it.

The forward line of Carson Andrew, Parker Trottier and tournament leader Tynan Lawrence are as good as any here at USA Hockey Arena. Plus, what a luxury it is to follow up that line with the trio of Michael Berchild, Zane Torre and Cooper Soller. Shattuck’s lineup is loaded with talent across the board, evident by their 13 different goal scorers in two games. 

They’ve put on an offensive clinic, albeit against the 16-seed and 9-seed in the tournament. But it’s more than just the plus-13 goal differential. They’re sound defensively, constantly in good position, hard on pucks and just playing the game the right way. I think it was John Riffey I saw lay out to block a shot from the point in the game with Dallas Stars Elite. You need those types of little plays that ultimately make the difference in championship runs. In addition to being the most talented team in the building, the group is playing hard, smart and desperate.

Can 14U Mission bounce back after surprising defeat?

There’s two teams I think can really challenge Shattuck in the playoffs. Pittsburgh Penguins Elite looked really sharp in their win against the Boston Jr. Eagles. They’re a talented bunch with really good chemistry off the rush. Give-and-go plays, clean zone entries, etc., make me think PPE can get up and down the ice with Shattuck.

The other team — despite the loss to Pittsburgh Vengeance — is the Chicago Mission. Similar to PPE, Mission has loads of talent on their roster. Kalder Varga is an exceptional forward, as is Abraham Barnett on the back end. Victor Plante, Lukas Zajic and Robin Kuzma can definitely take this team to a level that can compete with a Shattuck or Pens Elite. 

Special teams put 14U Bishop Kearney in comfortable spot

Through two games, Bishop Kearney has scored 10 goals with a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh Vengeance and a 5-0 win over the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. Of those goals, five have been scored on the man advantage, including four in Thursday’s game against the Jr. Canes. BK’s power-play unit is converting on 55.6 percent of its opportunities, and forward Rudolfs Berzkalns has fueled much of its efforts. They take on a Chicago Mission team on Friday that is the second-most penalized team in the tournament with 11 minor penalties. 

As mentioned before, win or lose on Day 3, Bishop Kearney should already have a spot in the elimination rounds. They’re undefeated with a significant goal differential to boot. Win, and they’re obviously in. Lose, and BK would likely hold any tiebreakers over its fellow Olympic Pool members.

2007-born Little Caesars and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite meet at the 2023 15O USA Hockey Nationals in Wayne, New Jersey.

Horcoff’s late goal sends ’07 Little Caesars past Pens Elite

Peter Rossi, on-site at 15O Nationals

A morning clash between Little Caesars and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite lived up to the hype at 15O USA Hockey Nationals. With both clubs coming in after tournament-opening victories on Day 1, a win for either would all but cement placement in the elimination round games this weekend. 

Pens Elite came out strong, realizing its opportunity and task ahead of taking on a powerhouse like Caesars. Jacob Cloutier was on the forecheck early and often. As a collective unit, Caesars struggled with Pittsburgh’s speed, finding themselves on the losing end of board battles, puck scrums and offensive zone time. The trio of Quinn McKenzie, Cloutier and Kieren Dervin was a standout, creating the most scoring opportunities of the period. 

As the period wore on, Caesars began to find its legs, but had difficulty getting shots on net as the Pens constantly got in front of any shot they could. Each team was as physical as they could be, with big checks in open ice and along the boards.

Just over one minute into the second frame, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Ryan White depositing a rebound chance in front. Shortly after, following a great drive to the net by Luke Menard, Charlton Tretheway banged in a loose puck in the crease to knot things at 1. Menard dipped his shoulder and bullied his way to the net, where Tretheway crashed and slipped the loose puck past Jake Shingles. The goal was originally credited to Nicholas Kosiba, but was changed postgame.

Thretheway was easily one of the standout skaters for Caesars. Constantly jumping in the rush when possible, his ability to get back into position with great speed often surprised Pens Elite players. 

Caesars warmed to the task in the second, with a lot of time spent in the Pens Elite defensive zone. Late in the period, Kosiba would put Caesars up 2-1 on the power play thanks to a pretty passing play between Zachary Morin and William Horcoff. 

Pens Elite understood they needed a win, so they pushed much of the pace in the third period. Tretheway was outstanding, constantly shutting down odd-man rushes with perfect stick position. Pittsburgh managed to find the equalizer at 12:46 when Mark Evans blasted a one-timer off the post and in. With 1:13 left and on a sixth power play of the game, Horcoff sent a low shot that beat the glove of Shingles to put Caesars up 3-2. With Pittsburgh once again searching for a goal, Aiden Janz iced the game with an empty-net goal.

Mission edge Compuware to secure playoff spot

Chicago Mission got their second victory of the round robin in a tight contest against Compuware. Jacob Eilers got Chicago on the board first when he fired a top-shelf wrister while on the penalty kill. Overall, seven penalties were called in the opening frame, with four for Compuware and three for Mission. 

Early in the second, Compuware would strike. Isaac Nelson deposited a pass from Travis Hayes from in tight, evening things at 1. It was apparent that Chicago knew they had Compuware beat in terms of overall size, and they rarely shied away from any opportunity to throw the body. After some extended zone time, Nathen Jastrzebski tipped an Andrew Horn shot for a 2-1 Mission lead. Chicago’s ability to cycle in the zone was a strength, aided greatly by the versatility of Asher Barnett on the blue line. 

 Each team would hit numerous crossbars and posts as regulation continued. Despite numerous attempts at trying to find a tying goal, Mission’s defense quickly smothered any Compuware attack. Egan Beveridge eventually put the game away with an empty-net goal. 

WHH will have continued coverage of USA Hockey Nationals this week. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for the latest news, top performers and more.


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