California Tier II boys teams solid on national stages
Three teams from California represented the Golden State at the USA Hockey Tier II Youth Nationals in late April and early March, and while none brought home national championship trophies, all represented their state well.
Tier II Boys – 18U
Golden State Elite put on a respectable showing in Amherst, N.Y., with a 2-1 record in the national tournament.
The Eagles opened with a 4-1 victory over the Tri-City Eagles from Maryland on March 31, jumping out to a one-goal lead after the first period and a 3-0 advantage by midway through the second. Benjamin Kottmeier scored two goals and added an assist, while Ryan McAuliffe and Kellen Ireland also found the back of the net. Derek Ellingson contributed two helpers, and Davis Holmes and Tristan Waechter each had one. Carson Murison stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced in goal.
On April 1, Golden State Elite made things interesting, needing to go to a shootout for a 2-1 win over Team Ohio. The Eagles scored first, thanks to a Waechter goal. They kept their opponents off the scoreboard until the final 1:04 of regulation when Team Ohio scored a shorthanded goal and forced overtime.
The teams went scoreless through the extra period, and the Eagles outscored their opponents 2-1 in the shootout. Murison was a stone wall again in net, saving 25 of 26 shots and giving his teammates a chance to win it in the shootout.
The Eagles’ good fortune ran out the next day, however, when they were eliminated from the tournament with a 2-1 loss to the St. Clair Shores Saints from Michigan, who advanced all the way to the championship game. The Saints scored first in the first period, and the Eagles tied it up on an Ellingson goal in the second. The Saints came back, though, and took the lead later in the second and the Eagles couldn’t catch up.
Tier II Boys – 16U
The OC Hockey Club went 3-1 in the 16U state tournament in Wayne, N.J.
On March 31, they beat the New Jersey Bandits 4-3 despite trailing by two goals early in the third period. Alec Grace scored on an assist from Hunter Norris in the first period, and Norris stepped up with two third-period goals, including what proved to be the game winner. Isaac Schuster also scored in the third. Grace registered two assists and Jared Labadie stopped 20 shots in goal.
They secured a 5-3 victory over the Howard Huskies from Maryland on April 1, jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Grace scored twice, and Smith, Jake Brubaker and Zachary Carnes also lit the lamp, while goalie Angus Hill made 28 saves.
OC Hockey Club’s 1-0 loss on April 2 came in double overtime, and Labadie kept them alive that long by stopping 25 shots.
Their run came to an end with a 5-4 loss to the eventual state runner-up Oakland Jr. Grizzlies on April 3. Despite rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third to tie the score, they allowed a late score. Grace, Smith, Norris and Brian Clem all scored, and Carnes had three assists.
Tier II Boys – 14U
At the 14U nationals in Charlotte, N.C., the Anaheim Jr. Ducks played three close games, but came home winless.
On March 31, they suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Tampa Scorpions. John Mulvihill scored on an assist from Parker James. They dropped a 3-1 decision to the Hershey Jr. Bears from Pennsylvania on April 1, with the lone goal coming from Bryson Fletcher and assisted by James and Zachary Lane. Nathan Lane made 25 saves. On April 2, the Jr. Ducks fell to the Highland Park Falcons of Illinois, 4-3 in overtime. They got goals from Mulvihill, Tyler Kurth and Connor McMahan, while Lane stopped 23 shots in goal.
— Greg Ball