Three North Country teams came a combined four wins away from capturing three USA Hockey Tier II National Championships over the weekend.
Playing in Indian Trail, North Carolina, near Charlotte, the St. Lawrence Thunder Bantam boys earned a return trip to the 14U title game where they dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision in overtime to the Ohio 98 Selects on Sunday. Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, the Potsdam Ice Storm 16U Girls saw their first trip to a national final end in a 4-1 loss to the Vermont Shamrocks after the St. Lawrence Thunder 14U Girls had suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Alaska All-Stars in their semi-final round game late Saturday night despite generating a 23-11 advantage in shots. Alaska went on win the national Tier II 14U championship with a 2-0 win over the Connecticut Ice Cats on Sunday.
THUNDER BOYS DENIED
In the National Tier II 14U 3A Boys Championship Game, one comeback denied another as the Thunder struck for the opening goal then quickly rallied fro ma 2-1 deficit before falling in overtimes to the Ohio 98 Selects.
Jordan Robert, who finished as the leading scorer in the division for the tournament with six goals and 12 assists for 18 points, got the Thunder on the board first in the title game with an unassisted goal at 13:57 of the opening period.
Ohio tied the game on a goal by Joshua Norman at the 14:14 mark then took the lead at 15:37 when Casper Younel connected for a power play goal but Robert pulled the Thunder even just 22 seconds later off an assist from Nate Bressard.
The Thunder outshot the 98 Selects 13-9 in the third period but neither team was able to regain the lead until Tommy Nook lifted the Ohio contingent to its first national title when he converted on a pass from Norman just 1:19 into overtime.
Noah Kormanyos turned aside 26 shots working the Thunder crease while Chase Hunyadi made 26 saves backstopping the win.
Coached by Bobby Smith, along with assistants Dan Bero, Mike McCormick and Chris Kormanyos, the Thunder Bantams posted a 4-2 record at their third straight appearance in the USA Hockey Nationals with both losses coming in overtime. Made up of players from around the North Country, other team members included; The Thunder 14U lineup includes; Dan Casey, Jon Paul Chauvin, Riley Clark, Bailey Conklin, Shane Cryderman, Nick Henrie, Jarrad Jackson, Andrew McCormick, Kaden Pickering, Jordan Robert, Ben Sprague, Turner Thomas, Josh Underwood, Wyatt Wilmshurst and Sam Woods.
ICE STORM GIRLS HALTED
After going undefeated through their first five games, the Ice Storm 16U Girls were stopped short of their bid to win a national title when they finally met their match in the title game.
The Shamrocks opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the game on a goal by Chelsea Ellis but the Ice Storm battled back to knot the score 4:13 into the middle frame when Kalie Grant finished off a play set up by Natalie Giglio.
Vermont countered with goals by Molly Dunphy at the 9:13 mark and Rachel Morse just over three minutes later to take control of the scoreboard then put the game away with 2:32 left in regulation when Ellis struck for her second goal of the contest.
Maddi Dillabough turned aside 19 shots for the Thunder while Courtney Peyko had 23 saves through the first 43 minutes and Victoria Gibson stopped the only two shots she faced in nine minutes of action in the combined crease effort for the Shamrocks.
Grant, who tallied nine goals and five assists, and Miller, who notched eight goals and six helpers, both finished with 14 points over the course of the five-day tournament in sharing scoring honors.
Coached by Mike Grant along with assistants Joel Giglio, Shawn Grant and Rick Miller, the Ice Storm lineup consisted of players from several area school districts. Also contributing toward the silver medal showing at nationals were; Kirstin Barkley, Colleen Besaw, MaKaylee Boak, Shannon Casey, Allie Compeau, Bailey Dillabough, Kelsey Green, Ellen Greene, Mia Jermano, Kelley Paduano, Jennifer Tardelli and Emily Wilmshurst.
THUNDER GIRLS FALL IN SEMIS
In a game that ended around 2 a.m. EDT Sunday morning, the Thunder 14U Girls were denied a trip to their championship game by an Alaska squad that only featured 11 players.
After a scoreless first period, Alaska relayed the momentum of a late scoring burst in the second period into the national title. Hallie Whitmore converted on a penalty shot with 44 seconds remaining. Kirsten Watts then struck for the eventual game-winner just 40 seconds later.
The Thunder outshot Alaska 8-3 in the third period and final got on the board when Katie MacCuaig netted an unassisted goal with just 11 seconds left in regulation.
Sidney Molnar made nine saves for the Thunder while Vandalyn Hudson turned aside 22 of the shots she faced working the crease for the win.
Guided by head coach Renee Young and assistant William MacCuaig, the Thunder 14U Girls roster also consisted of players from throughout the area including Elizabeth Collins, Madison Cullen, Raechel Davis, Jordan Emerson, Kaitlin Irvine, Mary Kate Mace, Samantha Mace, Maddie Mailhot, Mikenna Merry, Molly OConnell, Abby Paquin, Kerrigan Rondeau, Maya Swamp and Jayden Young.