16AAAs’ Efforts Rewarded With Bronze At Nationals

16AAAs’ Efforts Rewarded With Bronze At Nationals

By Chris Bayee

California Rubber Magazine

The disappointment lingered, but it didn’t change the fact that California’s entries at the boys Tier I division of the USA Hockey Nationals left it all on the ice at Amherst, N.Y.

The LA Jr. Kings medaled at both Midget 18U and 16U, while the LA Selects’ Pee Wees also medaled and the Bantams reached the playoff round.

Midget 16U: The Jr. Kings outscored their opponents, 17-3, during their five-game run, but ran into a defensive buzz saw in the Dallas Stars Elite in the semifinals, falling 2-1 to take home a bronze.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t win (the title) because we felt we had all the components to do it,” Jr. Kings coach Louis Pacella said. “But I’m more disappointed this group won’t be together again. It was a pleasure to coach them.”

After consecutive 5-0 victories to begin round-robin play, the Jr. Kings edged the eventual champion Long Island Royals, 2-1. An early goal staked Long Island, coached by former NHLer Pat LaFontaine,  to a 1-0 lead, but the Jr. Kings tied it on a Keanu Yamamoto goal and won it on Garett Gamez’s third-period strike. Tyler Caronia stopped 31 shots.

“Our reward was playing the best prep school in the country over the past 10 years, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, in the semis,” Pacella said.

But the Jr. Kings prevailed, 4-0, behind a shutout by Gavin Nieto (he had two in two games) and two goals by Ryan Siroky and one each by defenseman Riley Alferd (team-high nine points overall) and Yamamoto. That set up the semifinal against a Tier I Elite League rival.

“Dallas had a strategy and stuck to it perfectly,” Pacella said of a foe the Jr. Kings had gone 2-2 against in league play. “It was an extremely defensive game. Our players never quit.”

Nolan Stevens scored with 1:28 to play to draw the Jr. Kings to 2-1, and they nearly tied in the closing seconds.

Caronia fashioned a .961 save percentage and 1.01 goals-against average, which led players who played three or more games.

“Tyler and Gavin were fantastic in net,” Pacella said.

Bantams: Every team the Selects’ 97s played while going 2-1 in round-robin play reached at least the quarterfinals, and LA played Detroit Belle Tire tough for two periods before falling, 5-2, in the quarters.

“We were up 2-0 after two periods, but we just ran out of gas,” coach Rick Kelly said. “Belle Tire is very good and little bit deeper. They wore us down.”

The Selects opened with a hard-fought victories over the Valley Jr. Warriors (2-1) and Atlanta Fire (7-5) before falling to the Long Island Gulls (5-2).

Ty Comrie led the Selects with seven points, while Patrick Khodorenko and Robby Jackson added six apiece.

Pee Wee: The Selects overcame a sluggish start but lost in the semifinals, 5-1, to eventual champion Chicago Mission.

“We ran into a good team. They’re deep and they keep coming at you,” coach Shawn Pitcher said. “We had a good third period after we didn’t get clicking in the first and second. Chicago has been No. 1 (in myhockeyrankings.com) for a good part of the season for a reason.

The Selects outscored foes 21-7 in three round-robin wins before edging the Mid-Fairfield Blues, 2-1, in the semis.

“We had a good start,” Pitcher said. “We did what we needed to do in the round robin.

“Our blue line stepped up. At times it was as good as we’ve played all season on defense. (Captain) Kayla (Barnes) was outstanding as usual.”

Vanya Lodnia finished second in the tournament in scoring, with 13 points, while Cole Guttman added 10 and Brannon McManus had 9 for the Selects.

For more on ice and inline hockey in California, visit rubberhockey.com