Tournaments in Michigan, Massachusetts help kick off 2021-22 campaign

It’s finally here, people.

The 2021-22 youth hockey winter season is underway. 

In the United States, there’s already been a flurry of hockey action, as top teams across the country have started competing in big-time tournaments, making their marks on the new campaign.

It’s wonderful to see, of course, after the 2020-21 campaign was made so difficult by COVID-19. Challenges will continue to present themselves, but some events have helped the hockey community return to some sense of normalcy.

While some teams begin play with familiar foes close to home, two major tournaments have already brought together top talent to start the season with a bang.

The Eastern Alliance Kick-Off took place over the weekend. While no individual statistics were available online, the championship scores certainly tell the biggest stories of the event.

At the 16U, the Boston Jr. Eagles beat the Long Island Gulls 2-1 in overtime to secure a championship in their age group. The Jr. Eagles finished with a 6-1 record, out-scoring their opponents 32-13.

Defenseman Aidan Connors scored the game-winner in extra time for the Eagles, while Jake McManus — fresh off an appearance at the USA Hockey Select 16 Camp in which he recorded four points in five games — had the lone goal in regulation for the squad.

Bishop Kearney appeared in the 15U final as well, and this time the squad emerged victorious, topping Boston Advantage 4-3. The BK Selects went on an undefeated 7-0 run through the weekend tournament, with a whopping 43 goals for and only 12 against. In the elimination rounds of the tournament, BK posted 5-1 wins over the New Jersey Rockets and the North Jersey Avalanche on Sunday. Then on Labor Day, a 5-2 win over the Valley Forge Minutemen and a 4-3 championship victory over Boston Advantage

The BK Selects brought in Los Angeles native Jackson Silverberg to compete for time with incumbent Patrick Curtatone, and the duo is getting things done between the pipes thus far. 

And in the 14U Red Division championship, the Neponset Valley River Rats posted a 6-5 victory over Bishop Kearney. The River Rats finished the tournament with a 5-2 record, and a 26-17 goal differential. It was an impressive conclusion for head coach Dan Panciocco’s club, after Neponset Valley opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Yale Jr. Bulldogs and a 3-0 loss to the South Shore Kings before ripping off five straight wins. 



In Michigan, Total Package Hockey (TPH) hosted its Grand Rapids AAA Kick-Off Classic, welcoming teams from as far away as Florida and Tennessee to Hockeytown West for a slate of games in the final weekend of August. This past weekend, two leading Labor Day tournaments in the New England area teamed up to host the Eastern Alliance Kick-Off in Marlborough, Mass.

They didn’t bring the entire youth hockey community together for either of the big weekends, but it certainly provided an early flavor of teams and players to keep an eye on this season.

At the Kick-Off Classic, participating teams played four games apiece in a showcase-style format. While no trophies or medals were awarded, the scoresheets still tell a significant story.

In the 14U age group, Florida Alliance posted a 4-0 record during their brief stay in Michigan. Tommy Fellman led the way in points, as he racked up one goal and five assists; teammates Nolan Mara and Jason Musa both recorded two goals and two assists apiece. Between the pipes, Frank Copestick posted two shutout victories.

Host team Fox Motors had one overtime loss keep them from a perfect record; Carter Dominowski (three goals, one assist) and Travis Lefere (two goals and two assists) led Fox on the scoresheet. Zander Holsinger allowed only three goals while recording two wins.

Eight teams showed up for the 15U division, and Little Caesars delivered a perfect 4-0 record after making the three-hour drive west. Caesars’ Charlie Michaud — a Denver native who played in Canada for St. George’s School last season — posted four goals and two assists for six points over the four contests, while teammate Austin Baker recorded three goals and two assists.

J.J. Salajko — son of Detroit Red Wings goalie coach Jeff Salajko — and Garrett Dudlar split the wins for the Little Caesars squad.

Jordan Geike of the Windy City Storm and Chicago Mission’s Jake Merens are both top 2006-born prospects and teammates at this summer’s USA Hockey Select 15 Camp. Both tied Michaud for most points in the age group, as each chipped in six for their respective clubs. Between the pipes, Aidan Rasmussen helped his Nashville Jr. Predators to a 3-1 overall record by leading them to a 2-1 win over Mission and a 3-1 win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.

At 16U, Fox Motors enjoyed its home cooking, as the host team posted a 4-0 record, thanks to an eight-point weekend from Blake Bechen and a five-point performance from Allan Bottari. James King picked up two wins between the pipes, including a 5-0 shutout win over Michigan Hockey Advancement

Annelies Bergmann, a Cornell University commit, continues to impress against the boys, as the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies goaltender led her club to two victories – a 3-1 win over Compuware and a 5-1 win over the Jr. Predators. Overall, the Jr. Grizzlies finished in second on the weekend with a 3-0-0-1 record.

It’s just a taste of some of the top teams and players to get out of the gate first in the 2021-22 season. World Hockey Hub will have much more from youth hockey in North America, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia all season long! Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, updates, rankings and events.