Nicholas Kempf, John Whipple among top performers at youth hockey championships

Earlier this week, World Hockey Hub wrapped up the 14U, 15-Only and 16U Tier 1 national championships for USA Hockey. There, we profiled the championship teams and their paths to a title.

Now, we take a closer look at some of the standouts with our All-Tournament Team selections.

Forwards:

James Reeder (Chicago Mission 16U), James Hagens (Mount St. Charles 15O), Jack Murtagh (Bishop Kearney Selects 14U)

Can we make some sort of pun for James Reeder being a man on a mission for Mission? Nobody topped his points total in the 14-16 age groups at nationals, as the Glenview, Ill., native racked up 12 points in only five games. He was crucial to his Mission team, despite them falling short in the semifinals. Two goals in a 4-3 OT win, three points in a 5-3 win, lone goal in a 3-1 loss, four points in the quarterfinals in a 6-4 win, and two assists in the aforementioned semifinals. Reeder was the driving force offensively for his team and the rest of the tournament field took notice. Reeder was a third-round pick of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in last year’s USHL Draft. 

Much like Reeder, James Hagens’ squad didn’t achieve 15O supremacy, but it wasn’t from his lack of effort. The Mount St. Charles star forward had nine points in only four games, despite being one of the top players in his age group, and surely being the focal point of defensive schemes from the opposition each night. We’re expecting that this wasn’t the last time he will spend quality time at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, as Hagens should be on the NTDP Under-17 Team next fall after strong showings at both nationals and the NTDP Evaluation Camp just a short time before. Elite Prospects has him posting 72 points in only 34 games this season.

Jack Murtagh matched Reeder’s scoring totals for tops in the age groups at Nationals, as he racked up 12 in five games. It should come as no surprise; the native of East Greenbush, N.Y. is already 5-foot-8 and not afraid to use his size to his advantage. We’re expecting big things from this ’07 birth-year forward as he progresses through the ranks — Murtagh thrived in his first season with the BK Selects, posting 101 points in 68 games. 

Defense:

John Whipple (Shattuck-St. Mary’s 15O) and Holden Carter (Chicago Mission 14U)

John Whipple may have been breaking in the ice at his future home during the national tournament. A recent invitee to the USA Hockey’s NTDP Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Whipple thrived there a few weeks ago, and then again this past week at the national tournament in the same building. Whipple, a native of Morristown, N.J., led the 15O defensemen in scoring with eight points in six games. Whipple finished the season — his second with Shattuck — with 55 points in 54 games, along with 91 penalty minutes.

Holden Carter led the 14U Mission team and the blue liners in his age group in scoring at Nationals, racking up five points in six games en route to his team’s national title on home ice. We went with Carter as the representative for a Mission ’07 group who all deserve all-tournament team recognition – their ability to shut down the opposition throughout the entire tournament was impressive, to say the least. Not sure how to check the record books on this one, but Mission only allowed five shots on goal in their semifinal victory over the Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers, which has to be some kind of record, given the time and place of that defensive dominance. 

Goaltender:

Nicholas Kempf (Chicago Mission 15O)

He played in five of the six games Chicago Mission needed to capture a national championship, and along the way allowed only six goals. Kempf finished the tournament with a 1.20 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and one shutout, serving as the rock for a Mission team that marched through the field in Plymouth, Mich., en route to the 15O title. He must have enjoyed skating on familiar ice, after just having participated in the USA Hockey’s NTDP Evaluation Camp a few weeks ago, and getting his fair share of time at USA Hockey Arena in HPHL events with rival Compuware, too. 

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