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Beast League/USA Nationals

By Gary Demopoulos 04/10/2024, 3:00pm EDT


The Beast Tournament Series' four representatives at the recent USA Hockey Tier 1 U18 Nationals had an impressive week as a whole, combining for 14 wins.

All four programs – the Yale Jr. Bulldogs, Avon Regals, New Jersey Rockets and Long Island Gulls – all made it to the quarterfinal round of the 16-team tournament, with Yale reaching the championship game.

In that title game match-up of the tournament’s top two seeds, the Yale Jr. Bulldogs grabbed an early 1-0 lead after ther first period over #1 seed Shattuck St. Mary’s, but eventually fell, 2-1.

Defenseman Blake Jones gave Yale a 1-0 lead with an unassisted tally in the first period but they could not put any more pucks into the net. Mitchell McCusker kept Yale in the game, making 31 saves.

“Both teams played an extremely disciplined, tight game and they got one more bounce than we did,” said Yale coach Shawn Conner. “They (SSM) are a talented, well-coached program every year.”

The Bulldogs were impressive in sweeping three round-robin games to take first in the Olympic Division, knocking off the Anaheim Jr. Ducks (5-3), Rhode Island Saints (3-2) and the Central Mass. Penguins (6-3).

Yale doubled up Beast League foe New Jersey Rockets 4-2 in a quarterfinal matchup, and then blanked the Arizona Jr Coyotes 5-0 in the semifinal round.

Offensive leaders for Yale included Charles Blanchard (5-3-8), Alex Pelletier (4-2-6) and Gio DiGiulian (4-1-5). Defensemen Jones, Andrew Pitts and Andrew Anastasio were solid on the blue line. Kyle Ozgun and Mitchell McCusker alternated in goal and were solid.

“This team only lost two games in regulation all season, one being the championship game,” Conner said. “The core of this group has made three straight trips to Nationals. I cannot say enough about our players and what they brought each and every day. I could not have asked for a finer group of young men to represent our program, their schools and most of all their families.”

The Long Island Gulls also had an impressive week, reaching the semifinals where they lost to Shattuck St. Mary’s in heartbreaking fashion, 5-4, in overtime after leading 4-1 in the second period.

The Liberty Division champions outscored their three round-robin opponents – the Arizona Jr. Coyotes, the Windy City Storm and Culver Academy – by a 15-2 margin.

The Gulls bested Saints Hockey (NY) 4-1 in a quarterfinal matchup.

Both Thomas Zocco and William Tomko had excellent weeks, each amassing nine points. Joseph Macrina (2-4-6) and Ryan Wachtel (1-3-4) had solid weeks as well.

The Avon Regals had a strong round robin as well, winning the NHL Division with wins over the Sioux Falls Power (1-0), Saints Hockey (7-4) and the Boston Jr. Eagles (3-0), only to be upset in the quarterfinal round by the Arizona Jr. Coyotes by a 6-3 margin.

Defenseman Zachary Walsh, and forwards Tom Molson, Nicolas Petrut (4 goals) and Brendan Tighe each picked up four points. Connor Davis and John Delaney had a pair of goals.

Tyler Spokane allowed just one goal in 68 shots faced and picked up a pair of shutouts in goal.

The New Jersey Rockets advanced to the quarterfinals after going 2-1 in round-robin play, picking up wins over Victory Honda (7-5) and Team Maryland (4-3), and falling to Shattuck St. Mary’s before being ousted by Yale.

Top performers for the Rockets included Michael Schmelzer (5 points), Christian Chouha (4 pts), Brent Beswick (4 pts) and Maxwell Pendy (4 pts).

Beast League/USA Nationals

By Gary Demopoulos 04/10/2024, 10:30am EDT


The Long Island Gulls made the long trip out to Las Vegas worthwhile, coming home with the organization’s second straight USA Hockey Tier 1 U16 national championship.

The Gulls went 2-1 in their round robin play, then swept three playoff games enroute to the title, knocking off a tough Los Angeles Jr. Kings club in the championship game, 2-0.

Outshot 31-17, including 12-2 in the first period, the Gulls made a pair of second period goals from Marko Lisica and Poul Andersen stand up. Ryan Cameron was outstanding in goal, especially in the opening period.

“We don’t win the game without Ryan’s performance in the first period,” said Gulls coach Dan Cassano. “We were fighting some nerves as a group and our play reflected that. Uncharacteristic turnovers in bad areas, poor defense in our end and lack of attack mindset. Ryan was there for us to allow us to find our game. Nothing new, though, it’s been that way for two years.”

Long Island and the Jr. Kings both came out of the NHL Division, and played during the round-robin, a 1-0 win for the Gulls. So, both teams were well aware of their championship game opponent.

“I would say it helped a bit from our ability to be able to watch back our round robin game to see how they had played us, how they reacted to our special teams and little adjustments we would need to make to be successful. I would say it definitely helped them as well. They are a well-coached team and they made some changes that made the final game more difficult for us.”

In the quarterfinal round, the Gulls dispatched fellow Beast Tournament Series foe Mid-Fairfield Rangers, 6-2, and edged a solid Little Caesars squad, 2-1, in the semifinals.

Malachi McKinnon was the Gulls’ top scorer for the week with three goals and six assists. whille Andersen, Joseph Argentina and Cooper Dennis each had six-point weeks. Ethan Wyttenbach had four goals.

Cameron played in five of Long Island’s six games, and finished with a sparkling 0.84 gaa.

“I think it says a ton about our program to win back-to-back,” Cassano said. “U16 is the holy grail of youth hockey; it’s very hard to win. You need some good fortune, some bounces to go your way, health, all of it. To watch our team persevere through a ton of adversity and be rewarded for their hard work is extremely satisfying. We’ve had the chance to coach some special players these last couple of years – mentally tough and willing to do whatever it takes to win. That’s where I feel the success comes from – we have the hardest working playrs who care the most.”

The Mid-Fairfield Rangers advanced to the quarterfinal round after going 2-1 in their round-robin play, following up a loss to the Chicago Mission with victories over Sioux Falls Power and the Dallas Stars Elite.

Both Oliver Czaja and Easton Kinsler had three goals for the Rangers in their four-game week. Defenseman Thomas Bleyl contributed four points, as did Ryan Headley. Goalies Steven Luciano and John Fichthorn split duties.

The third Beast Tournament Series program at the U16 Nationals, the New Jersey Rockets, did not make it to the playoff rounds, losing three tough games to Saints Hockey, Little Caesars and Compuware by a combined four goals.

The Rockets got a pair of goals each from Aidan Wilson, Matthew Dabrowski and Tyler Kusznier.

Beast League/USA Nationals

By Gary Demopoulos 04/10/2024, 9:15am EDT


No less than five Beast Tournament Series teams took part in the recently-concluded USA Hockey Tier 1 15 Nationals, and they performed well.

Four of the five programs qualified for the playoff rounds, and one, the Long Island Gulls, reached the championship game.

Here’s a recap on how Beast Tournament Series teams did out in Fargo, ND.

The Long Island Gulls had a great week, advancing all the way to the final game, where they fell to the top-seeded Chicago Mission, 4-1. In that game, the Gulls held a 1-0 lead and it was still a one-goal game until late, when the Mission scored twice to seal it.

A quarterfinal win over Little Caesars and a semifinal victory over Pittsburgh Penguins Elite propelled the Gulls to the final.

In the round-robin, LI posted wins over fellow Beast member Neponset River Rats (4-2) and Okanagan Academy (6-3), and lost to Shattuck St. Mary’s (4-2).

Maxim Dube led the Gulls with eight points, while Cody Sokol, Dylan Dean and Owen DeGraff each contributed five points.

Seacoast Performance Academy finished a perfect 3-0 in divisional play, including shutout wins over Team North Dakota (6-0) and eventual national champion Chicago Mission.

SPA’s run was halted in the quarterfinals, however, as the team was nipped 2-1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite.

Goalie Filip Vavro and Parker Stockseth were solid as they split the duties, combining to allow just four goals in the the four games.

Tim Kazda had a line of 4-4-8, including a hat trick in the win over North Dakota. Daniel Trucka finished with two goals and two assists.

The New Jersey Rockets also swept three games in their round-robin division, picking up wins over Pittsburgh Penguins Elite (3-2), the Rhode Island Saints (3-0) and the LA Jr. Kings (10-1).

In their quarterfinal, the Rockets lost a tough 5-4 game to the Chicago Mission.

Leaders during the week included Nicholas Desiderio, who had an impressive 10 points in four games, Ryan Tserlin (4-2-6), defenseman Mark Konstantinov (2-3-5) and Vladimir Provorov (2-3-5).

Also reaching the quarterfinal round was the Mid-Fairfield Rangers, where they lost to Shattuck St. Mary’s by a 4-2 margin.

Mid-Fairfield went 2-1 in round robin play, with victories over Saints Hockey (3-2) and the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (7-0). The Rangers also lost to Little Caesars (5-3).

Joey Salandra (4-3-7) and Ben Lombardi (3-3-6) had solid Nationals for the Rangers.

The Neponset River Rats did not qualify for the playoff rounds, but closed out round-robin play with a big 8-2 triumph over Okanagan Hockey Academy.

Both Ethan Travis and Chase Field finished with four points.

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