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Beast League/USA Nationals

By Gary Demopoulos, 04/10/24, 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).