Next Up, Natty’s

Mar 17, 2022 | John Klinck

Photo by Michael Caples | Take Your Shot Photography
Photo by Michael Caples | Take Your Shot Photography

The Last Group of American Teams Secure Automatic Bids

It was the final weekend of USA Hockey’s Districts and Affiliates hosting their respective tournaments to award automatic bids to the national tournament. There was more than enough hockey action across the country.

The Atlantic District (Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey), the Central District (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri), the New England District (Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont), the New York District, the Rocky Mountain District (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah), the Northern Plains District (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming) and the Michigan District all crowned champions on Sunday and Monday, making the weekend one of the wildest of the youth hockey season.

The following teams had already secured a spot in the 2022 USA Hockey national tournaments.

ALREADY BOOKED

14U15O16U
Shattuck-St. Mary’s
California Golden Bears
Nashville Jr. Predators
Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
Boston Jr. Eagles
Shattuck-St. Mary’s
Minuteman Flames
Los Angeles Jr. Kings
Nashville Jr. Predators
Cleveland Barons Elite
Shattuck-St. Mary’s
Boston Jr. Eagles
Anaheim Jr. Ducks
Florida Alliance
Culver Academy

With seven other districts in action over the weekend, here’s a closer look at teams who added their names to the field expected at nationals next month:

TICKET PUNCHED

Michigan District

At the 14U level, Little Caesars stormed through the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) state playoffs to secure their first USA Hockey National Championship experience in their first opportunity. The 2007 birth-year LC squad — ranked No. 10 worldwide by World Hockey Hub — played Fox Motors in their first game and their last game of the tournament, and both times the games ended 1-0 in favor of the blue and orange (including overtime in the final). 

Caesars got it done at the 15O level, as well, as their best-of-three series with HoneyBaked went the distance. After HB won Game 1 6-2, LC — No. 6 on the WHH global rankings — didn’t allow a single goal. The ’06 boys won Game 2 3-0 and the winner-take-all Game 3 by a 4-0 final.

At 16U, Compuware made sure some of the hardware would end up with other Michigan programs, as they battled with LC all the way to overtime of Game 3. Compuware, the No. 5 team in the world and No. 3 in the U.S., won Game 1 4-3 before Caesars forced a Game 3. In the finale, Compuware got it done in OT, winning 3-2.

Atlantic District

The Philadelphia Flyers Elite took the 14U division of the Atlantic District, as they lived up to their No. 1 seed billing in the tournament. In a best-of-three matchup with the New Jersey Rockets, the ‘07 Flyers only needed the first two games, posting a 3-0 victory in Game 1 and a 5-3 win in Game 2 to head home early.

The North Jersey Avalanche and New Jersey Rockets needed all three games to decide a winner at the 15O level. The Avs took Game 1 by a score of 6-2, but the Rockets evened the series with a 4-3 win on Sunday. In Monday’s finale, the No. 1-seeded Avs earned a trip to nationals with a 4-3 victory.

At the 16U level, the Avs won, as well. Fresh off a Eastside Elite Top 20 tournament win, the ’05 New Jersey club — ranked No. 6 in the U.S. — shut out the Rockets in Game 1 with a 3-0 win, then finished things off with a 4-3 victory in Game 2.

Central District

The Central District settles things with a round-robin style final weekend; everybody plays everybody and the team with the most points in the standings goes on to nationals. At the 14U level, there was still a championship game of sorts, as the Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers and Chicago Mission met in the final game of the weekend in a winner-take-all battle between two undefeated teams. Might not be fair to call it an upset when both teams are ranked in the U.S. Top 10, but it was still a huge win the No. 10-ranked Gamblers, as they blanked the No. 2-ranked Mission squad for a 2-0 final.

At the 15O level, the St. Louis AAA Blues turned in a perfect weekend. They punched their tickets to nationals with a 3-1 win over Team Wisconsin, a 6-2 win over the No. 7 Windy City Storm and a 6-1 win over the Des Moines Buccaneers.

Mission did just enough to win the tiebreaker with CarShield in the 16U age group; despite losing their head-to-head, Mission’s loss was in OT, while CarShield lost a game in regulation to Team Wisconsin. With a 7-1 win over Des Moines and a 4-3 win over Team Wisconsin, Mission locked in a nationals appearance.

Other district champions include:

Northern Plains

14U champions – Team North Dakota
15O champions – Sioux Falls Power
16U champions – Sioux Falls Power

New York

14U champions – Bishop Kearney Selects
15O champions – Bishop Kearney Selects
16U champions – Long Island Gulls

New England

14U champions – Mount St. Charles
15O champions – Mount St. Charles
16U champions – Yale Jr. Bulldogs

Rocky Mountain

14U champions – Dallas Stars Elite
15O champions – Dallas Stars Elite
16U champions – Phoenix Jr. Coyotes

By the end of the weekend, all 12 automatic bids at each age group had been awarded. After that, four at-large bids are handed out in order to round out the field of teams at 16 per age group. The at-large bids were granted as follows:

AT-LARGE BIDS

14U15O16U
Chicago Mission
Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers
Los Angeles Jr. Kings
Compuware
Chicago Mission
Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
Windy City Storm
Team Alaska
Bishop Kearney Selects
New Jersey Rockets
Mount St. Charles
Pittsburgh Penguins Elite

Tier-I USA Hockey Nationals are slated to begin on March 30, and WHH will have continued coverage of the events from Chicago (14U), Plymouth (15O) and Rochester (16U). Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube for the latest news, expert picks and updates from the tournament.

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