SAN JOSE, Calif. – Long Island Gulls netminder Ryan Denes made 16 saves and Grant Young scored the game-winner as the Gulls downed Little Caesars, 2-0, to claim the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16U National Championship Monday at Tech CU Arena.
“It was a great hockey game,” said Vinny Smith, head coach of the Long Island Gulls.
“They took it to us for stretches, and we defended and finished when we had to. We’re with these kids every day and we’ve been together for eight-and-a-half months, so to be able to get that feeling and accomplishment is surreal. These kids are so selfless; their fight, their will and their passion showed in that game. They’re just amazing.”
Both teams had several great chances, with Little Caesars nearly taking a lead just past the halfway point of the second period as Brecken Smith flew out of the penalty box, picking up the puck off Aidan Brown’s clear, but Denes was equal to the task.
Just one minute later, it was the Gulls who had a big chance as Jack Genovese picked off the puck in the neutral zone and sent it to Ryan Wachtel, who fired it from the slot and picked up his own rebound to get a second shot off, but Little Caesars’ Owen Lepak came up with two big saves to keep things scoreless.
The Gulls finally broke through on the power play in the third after 37:40 scoreless minutes. Young fired a shot top shelf from the right circle off a feed from Wachtel at the point to give Long Island a 1-0 lead.
John McNelis sealed Long Island’s win with an empty-netter with just four seconds left to play.
The championship marks the first 16U national title for the Long Island Gulls after the team fell just short last year, finishing second in the 16U division.
PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Gavin Weeks was the backbone for Buffalo Saints throughout the season.
He had to be.
As the only goalie on the roster, Weeks played every minute and made timely saves this year, which culminated at the 2023 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I 14U National Championships. Weeks made 14 saves in a 2-1 victory in the Tier I 14U championship game on Monday against the Chicago Mission (Ill.) at USA Hockey Arena.
“He was our solo goalie all year and he just set the table for us all year,” Buffalo Saints coach Greg Collins said. “When you see him, going out there all the time, he was a warrior, he put us in spots to win all year, he was a rock.”
Weeks was steady from the start on Monday. Chicago controlled the puck for much of the first period, but despite an 8-3 edge in shots, still couldn’t score in the opening period.
In the second period, Weeks made two of his most important stops, first going left to right for a dazzling blocker save after a rebound, then stopping a breakaway to keep it 0-0.
“When I make that first big save all the pressure goes off,” Weeks said. “That’s when things start to become easier for me, the pressure goes the other way.”
Weeks eventually let up a goal midway through the second on the penalty kill. Chicago’s Lukas Zajic skated and controlled the puck from the point and took a lane to the net where he was able to flip a shot over Weeks’ shoulder for his fifth goal of the tournament to put the Mission up 1-0.
“When we went down 1-0, we didn’t really worry. They didn’t panic, they’ve been in spots like this before, they were ready,” Collins said. “So I felt pretty good about this team knowing what to do when they end up in that spot.”
He was right.
By limiting the damage in the first two periods, the Saints had enough room to mount a comeback. The Saints tied the game 1:22 later when a floating point shot by Joshua Henry made its way through traffic and past Mission goalie Jake Windbiel, who made 18 saves in the game.
Rudolfs Berzkalns cleaned up a rebound with 15:10 remaining in the third period to give Buffalo its first lead, which Weeks helped secure as the championship-clincher for the Saints.
Dain Gordon created the initial chance on a zone entry, working his way around a Mission defender and firing a hard shot low on the stick side. The rebound kicked to the slot where Berzkalns was able to rifle home the rebound for his team-high sixth goal of the tournament.
Weeks only had to make one save in the third period. When the final buzzer went off, his teammates all raced towards him for the post-win celebration.
“It was super exciting,” Weeks said. “It’s been a long year and we’ve gone through some ups and downs through it all, but we won a national championship, that’s amazing.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
We are pleased to announce that the Atlantic Coast Academy located in Pittsfield, MA have joined the Beast Tournament Series for the 2023-2024 Season. ACA will participate at the 15U,16U, & 18U levels.
Located in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, the BEAST Tournament Series celebrates its 7th season in the fall 2023 having established itself as the top showcase league for U18, U16, U15, U14, & U13. Simply put, in just six seasons, the BEAST league has set a new standard, and this is proven through both NCAA Commitments and National Championships.
The BEAST Tournament Series has seen over 500 players make their NCAA Commitments, with over 95% of these players advancing to Division I colleges and universities.
The BEAST Tournament Series has also seen many players advance to play at the highest levels of junior hockey in both the United States and Canada.
ABOUT OUR ACADEMY:
Located in heart of New England Hockey, Pittsfield Ma., Atlantic Coast Academy is one of only five high school Hockey Academies in New England. ACA will offer both high-end hockey development alongside an academic and cultural experience. Our players homestead is at located in the beautiful and well known Camp Winadu on beautiful Onota Lake. This opportunity is unlike any of the other programs.
Our location is beneficial for our student-athletes. Due to the close proximity of many programs within Massachusetts, ACA will provide exposure to three major Division 1 Conferences: ECAC (Union, Harvard University, RPI), Atlantic Hockey League (Bentley University, AIC), Hockey East (Northeastern, BU, BC, U-Lowell, Merrimack). These alongside our New England area Prep Schools such as Berkshire School, Trinity Pawling, Albany Academy, Salisbury, Deerfield and Cushing, etc... New England is arguably one of the best, if not, the best hockey markets in the United States.
Atlantic Coast Academy players will receive elite training and coaching, both on and off the ice. Our players will be prepared to play for Junior Hockey, NCAA college, and professional hockey. Our staff and management team will also ensure that players have the necessary development, exposure, and advancement opportunities to take the next step in their hockey careers.
We encourage Apex Learning for our students. Apex Learning possesses a built-in tutor program, hands on teachers, excellent communication with parents, and competitive tuition costs. This private school is available in all states and is NCAA accredited.
Although we do recommend Apex Learning, please know that it is NOT a requirement. It is your choice as a family which online program you can enroll your child in.
Our Academy also has a staff member to help direct our students with their school work. Marcie Velasco, is the Academy Academic Advisor.
Along with our Academy program, we also offer Fall Split season ‘Atlantic Coast Selects’ and Summer program ‘Atlantic Coast Elite’.
Our philosophy with our fall split season program is to place a primary focus on development of each player both skill-wise, and as a whole. Our Select players will be taught what it takes to be a team player, and will be pushed to their limits in order to further them as hockey players and as young people. Each player will have the opportunity to compete in 20+ games against highly competitive teams across MA, CT, and NY with the objective of preparing them for their High School seasons and beyond.
Atlantic Coast Academy is specifically designed to educate elite hockey student athletes.
Atlantic Coast Hockey is a high-performance program that prides itself on professional coaching, excellent player development and maximum exposure opportunities. Our objective is to prepare student-athletes both athletically and academically for the next level, with the ultimate objective for players to succeed on and off the ice.