SPA, Team Wisconsin Start Quick

Aug 31, 2022 | John Klinck

Photo from Instagram | @d_lasker27
Photo from Instagram | @d_lasker27

Two teams to watch coming out of opening weekend of the USA Hockey season

The AAA Kickoff Classic was the first big tournament of the fall in the United States, and in the process it provided an early look at some teams to watch for this season.

While the 15U, 16U and 18U divisions were showcase-style events with no true playoff structure, the 14U division featured a round-robin preliminary round before semifinal and championship contests, allowing Seacoast Performance Academy to flex some muscle at the 2008 birth year.

The SPA crew finished 5-1-1 over the course of the four-day event, leaving Grand Rapids, Mich., with a tournament title before the calendar flips to September.

In the championship game, the Spartans and Team Wisconsin both scored three goals apiece in the opening frame, but in the final two periods, SPA took control, and eventually won 6-3.

It was a big victory for SPA in terms of winning the AAA Kickoff Classic title, but also because they avenged their only loss in the early-season tournament. The Spartans started things off with a 3-2 nail-biting loss to the same Team Wisconsin club, ending up on the wrong end of a three-goal third period between the two clubs.

That was the only time they would lose in Grand Rapids, however, as Seacoast rebounded with a 7-1 thumping of Team Illinois Friday morning. In their second Friday tilt, SPA played one of the two clubs from Czechia, battling the Pilsen Wolves to a 5-5 tie.

On Saturday, SPA won their two contests by scoring five goals in each – first they beat Chicago Fury 5-2, before taking care of the Nashville Jr. Predators 5-1 later in the day.

In the first of two playoff games on Sunday, SPA took on the other Czech club, and HC Trinec dragged them all the way to a shootout. The Spartans prevailed in the shootout session, leaving with a 2-1 final on the scoreboard and a rematch with Team Wisconsin at 2 p.m.

In the title contest, Timothy Kazda wasn’t about to let SPA fall to Team Wisconsin again. A native of Slovakia, Kazda was dominant in the final, scoring a hat trick in the first period alone, and finishing with five goals in the 6-3 win.

That five-goal outing put Kazda in first place in scoring for both the 14U division and the Kickoff Classic field across all age groups. He finished with 12 goals and 13 total points. Aside from Kazda, SPA had well-balanced scoring throughout the tournament, as Jackson Smail had six points, while Daniel Trucka, Rockland Babcock, Hunter Chadbourne and Garrit Turcotte all had five. 

Kamden Jackson and Filip Vavro took care of business between the pipes for SPA, both appearing in four contests apiece.

Team Wisconsin had plenty of firepower throughout the tournament, as well, as the next three spots in the 14U scoring race went to members of the second-place squad. Mack Diggins had 11 total points, while Grant Molski and Owen Porter both had nine.

Team Wisconsin 16U makes early statement

They didn’t play in as many games as the 14U division, but the 16U Team Wisconsin made their own early-season statement in Grand Rapids.

After making the trek across (or probably around) Lake Michigan, Team Wisconsin played to a perfect 3-0-0 record in the showcase-style event.

None of their games were decided by more than two goals, showing that TW can go up against top competition and hold their own when things get tense. 

On Friday, they took down SPA 3-1. Caden Feinstein scored in the first, Dylan Bryne scored in the second, and Will McDonald wrapped things up in the third.

Saturday, they took care of Team Minnesota, a collection of high school players from the ‘State of Hockey.’ Bryne’s third-period goal turned out to be the difference in that one; Riley Boyle and James Flanigan also scored for TW.

To wrap things up, they went toe-to-toe with Little Caesars in a Sunday afternoon affair, taking on a team that was a national title contender last season. All three goals in the contest were scored in the third period; TW scored twice, while LC only scored one. Quinn Smith and Jackson Hoem had the goals in a 2-1 win, as TW picked up a statement win early in the year.

Smith ended up leading TW in scoring with five points in the three games, while three players — Bryne, Vincent Greene and Joseph Coghlin — had two points apiece. 

Rowan White started two games, finishing with a .938 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average. Devin Rustlie played in one game, allowing two goals and registering a .913 save percentage. 

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