A silver-medal effort by the St. Lawrence Thunder 16-Under boys highlighted a strong showing by the three area minor hockey teams who competed at USA Hockey Tier II National Championship tournaments last weekend.
Playing in Reston, Virginia, the Thunder stormed their way through their first five games before finally meeting their match in the championship game Sunday morning where they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Oakland Junior Grizzlies.
The other two locally-produced New York State champions in action were the St. Lawrence Thunder Bantams and the North Country Icestorm Girls 16-U team. Both teams saw their hopes of advancing to the national title game end in hard-fought semifinal round losses Saturday night.
Both Thunder squads are sanctioned by Massena Minor Hockey while the Icestorm compete as part of the Potsdam Junior Hockey Association.
Coached by Josh Bartell, the Thunder were making their third appearance in four years at the USA Hockey Nationals and came away with their best finish.
In the title game against the California champions, the Thunder fell behind in the first period when Scott Mallas connected for the first of two power play goals fashioned by the Grizzlies at the 11:15 mark.
Potsdams Logan Ford tied the game 6:43 into the middle frame by finishing off a play set up by Hayden Hart and Massenas Patrick Manning and the teams went into the second intermission knotted at 1-1.
The Grizzlies struck for the next two goals of the game when Joseph Savel tallied the second power play marker just 3:36 into the final frame and Brandon VanOphem notched the eventual game-winner at the 8:31 mark.
The Thunder pulled back to within one when Hart converted off an assist from Lukas Arqueitt at 16:02 but but would be unable to come up with the equalizer.
Logan Brothers made 15 saves working the crease for the Thunder while Brandon Boncore stopped 22 shots for the Grizzlies.
Despite being held off the scoresheet in the title game, Madrid-Waddington student Kaden Pickering wound up as the second leading scorer of the tournament in the Thunders division with eight goals and five assists for 13 points. Hart, a Potsdam product, was sixth in the standings with nine points on three goals and six helpers. Logan Ford, also of Potsdam, and Arquiett, St. Lawrence Central standout, both finished with three goals and five assists while Potsdams Chad Varney chipped in a goal and four assists.
Brothers, a Massena Central student, split goaltending duties with Cantons Jonathan Stone over the course of the six games. Brothers went 3-1 in four games, posting a 2.00 goals against average and .920 save percentage while Stone backstopped a pair of wins in recording a 1.50 goals against average and .943 save percentage.
Other members of the national silver medal winning team included, Maddox Merry, JP Chauvin, Jordan Robert, Wyatt Wilmshurst, Ben Sprague, Patrick LaGrow and Bailey Hewlett of Massena, Potsdams Keenan OGorman, St. Lawrence Centrals Kody Kocsis, Cantons Andy McCormick, Madrid-Waddingtons Shane Cryderman and Malones Bailey Conklin. Both Pickering and Cryderman competed for the NAC and Section 10 Division II championship team from Norwood-Norfolk Central this past season. John Hart served as assistant coach as the Thunder closed out the season at 32-6-2.
The Thunder Bantams played at the 14-U nationals in Hackensack, New Jersey, where they finished with a 4-1 record after falling to the eventual champion USA Eagles of Michigan 4-3 in the semifinals. The Eagles went on to beat the Miami Toros of Florida 3-1 in the title game. The Toros were one of the three preliminary round wins fashioned by the Thunder, who were looking to reach the national final for the third straight year after winning silver medals in their previous two appearances.
Coached by Bobby Smith, the Thunder were led offensively by a pair of Potsdam Central products as Corson Green finished tied for fourth in the scoring standings with six goals and five assists for 11 points and Josh Sanchez wound up tied for fifth with five goals and five assists for 10 points. Malones Kyler Head was eighth with three goals and three assits for six points.
The goaltending duo of Massenas Merrick Taraska (2-0, 1.11 goals against, .950 save percentage, and Grant VanBuren (2-1. 1.67 goals against, .946 save percentage), a Madrid-Waddington student who was also part of the championship team at Norwood-Norfolk, combined to backstop the Thunder over the course of the tournament.
Other team members included; Cole Allen, Kyran Sunday, Billy Bergan, Jared Barr, Cole Moore, Isaac Thrasher, Nate Bressard, Josh Underwood, Mark Mahoney, Broadie Woods and Jacob Mattice. Jeff Allen and Ed Underwood served as assistant coaches.
In Amherst, the Icestorm were denied a second straight bid to the national title game when they fell 4-1 to Marquette of Michigan in the semifinals on Saturday after having knocked off the defending champion Vermont Shamrocks 2-1 in the quarterfinals earlier in the day. Marquette, which beat the Icestorm 5-2 in the tournament opener, went on to drop a 2-1 decision to Charles River of Massachusetts in the final on Sunday.
Potsdams Kalie Grant anchored the North Country offense with 10 goals and 1 assist from 11 points to finish second in the scoring standings for the tournament. Kelsey Green and Kirstin Barkley both tallied a goal and two assists while netminder Allie Compeau posted a 3-2 record backstopping all five games where she logged a 2.40 goals against average and .902 save percentage.
Coached by Mike Grant, the Icestorm also consisted of players from throughout the area including; Paige McCabe, Hannah Drecshel, Laura Wells, Abby Lyon, McKalyee Boak, Mimi Husinec, Madee Derouchie, Reaghan Peets, Emily Wilmshurst, Abbey Paduano and Mia Jermano.