Seven Districts Award Bids to USA Hockey Nationals
The field for the 2021 USA Hockey Nationals tournaments are nearly finalized. Mid-American, Rocky Mountains, Southeastern, Central and Minnesota Districts had been completed in previous weeks, with Atlantic, Michigan, New England, Northern Plains and Pacific Districts finishing their respective regional tournaments over the weekend.
The North Jersey Avalanche organization earned a bid at the 16U and 15U age groups after both teams won best-of-three series. The 15s needed a third game against the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers after teams exchanged wins on Saturday and Sunday. The Avs put an exclamation point on Game 3 with a 4-0 shutout. The 16s swept the New Jersey Rockets in two games. It was the sixth and seventh times that the Avs had defeated the Rockets this season, as the cross-state rivals had tangled quite a bit this winter.
The 14U Atlantic championship needed overtime between the New Jersey Colonials and Valley Forge Minutemen. With 9:54 left in the extra frame, Christian Chouha broke the deadlock and punched his team’s ticket to Nationals with a wrist shot through the defenseman’s legs.
A top team in the state at both the ‘05 and ‘06 age groups, Compuware was crowned after a relatively chalky finish in Taylor, Michigan. The 14U squad was the highest-ranked team in the district heading into the playoffs. It became clear why, when Compuware dominated Little Caesars in the three-game series finale, winning the first two games out-scoring LC 7-1. Then, at the 15U level, a similar scenario played out when Compuware went 6-0 including two wins over Little Caesars as well.
Getting hot at the right time, the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies pulled off a bit of an upset as the unranked bunch pulled off wins over No. 10 HoneyBaked and No. 17 Fox Motors in the elimination rounds to survive the highly-contested tournament. First, OJG beat HoneyBaked 4-3 in overtime on Saturday before knocking off Fox twice to steal a spot in Missouri for Nationals later this month.
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Mount St. Charles made a statement, nearly sweeping national bids at the 14U, 15U and 16U age groups. The 16s dominated with 44 goals in five games, sweeping through the district and securing a big with a 6-2 victory over South Kent Selects Academy. The 14s battled with unranked Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers, trading wins over the weekend before Mount locked up the bid with a 6-3 victory on Sunday.
MFJR denied Mount of a sweep with a nail-biter at the 15U level. The two teams collided in the championship on Sunday afternoon and after a 4-4 tie carried through regulation and overtime, a shootout would decide the teams’ futures. The fourth shooter off the bench, Logan Renkowski broke the deadlock with a wrist shot low blocker side, putting the puck in the back of the net and his Jr. Rangers squad into the National tournament.
Team North Dakota and Sioux Falls Power were set to face off in all three age groups in a best-of-three format.
Competition was tight at the 14U level, as both Game 1 and Game 2 were decided by just one goal. Needing a decisive third game to determine a series winner, Team ND knocked off Sioux Falls 4-2 to earn the Nationals berth.
The 16U series was a little more lopsided, as Sioux Falls scored 11 goals in two games to sweep Team North Dakota.
Unranked ‘04 Anaheim Jr. Ducks dominated their district with smothering defense, holding opponents to just four goals in five games. The Jr. Ducks’ 2-1 victory over San Jose Jr. Sharks solidified the championship. Also unranked, Team Alaska earned the 15U district bid after a 3-1 win over the Jr. Ducks. Finally, No. 19 LA Jr. Kings has been a top team in the U.S. at the ‘06 birth year, and a 5-0-0 run through districts clinched a spot at nationals for the west coast squad.
This weekend’s tournaments mark the conclusion of District playoffs across the United States. Updated automatic bids to National tournaments are as follows…
|Atlantic||North Jersey Avalanche||North Jersey Avalanche||New Jersey Colonials|
|Central||Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers||Team Wisconsin||Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers|
|Michigan||Oakland Jr. Grizzlies||Compuware||Compuware|
|Mid-American||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite||Pittsburgh Penguins Elite|
|Minnesota||Shattuck-St. Mary’s||MN Blue Ox||Shattuck-St. Mary’s|
|New England||Mount St. Charles||Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers||Mount St. Charles|
|Northern Plains||Sioux Falls Power||N/A||Team North Dakota|
|Pacific||Anaheim Jr. Ducks||Anaheim Jr. Ducks||LA Jr. Kings|
|Rocky Mountain||Colorado Thunderbirds||Dallas Stars Elite||Colorado Thunderbirds|
|Southeastern||Nashville Jr. Predators||Florida Alliance||Team Maryland|
At-large bids are expected to be announced later this week, which will finalize the field of teams at each age group. All three age groups will compete from April 28th to May 3rd, with the 14s and 15s playing in Dallas, Texas, while the 16s play in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
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