In the first ever weekend of playoff action in the AHF, the 14U AA division provided some great action, along with plenty of reasons to be excited about the tournaments to come. Before we can look ahead, we have to look back at some well-played hockey. In the championship game, the North Jersey Aspen Kings Blue skated away with the first AHF 14U AA championship banner after a weekend full of great performances. Let’s take a look back to see how they earned their crown.
The Aspen Kings kicked off their round robin schedule on Saturday morning against the Ashburn Xtreme, earning a 6-2 victory. In the win, Ben Barnhill scored two goals and was one of five North Jersey skaters with two points in the win. The Aspen Kings had to work hard for the three points, however, as Tyler Rounds had a very strong night in net for the Xtreme. Rounds made 38 saves in the game, allowing Ashburn to remain competitive until the game’s conclusion.
North Jersey returned to action that afternoon to take on MYHA Blue. The Aspen Kings earned a hard-fought 8-5 win over MYHA thanks to a few key performers. Jase Zangara scored an impressive 4 goals, including the game winner, while Jake McCloud tallied a goal and 3 assists in the game. The game’s spotlight was not limited to the Aspen Kings’s bench, though, as Daniel McNelis scored a hat trick for MYHA Blue.
The Aspen Kings concluded a perfect run in the round robin with a 4-0 decision over Royals Hockey Club on Sunday morning. After a back-and-forth first period, North Jersey was able to gain control of the game thanks to Barhill, who cashed in for 3 goals, two of them coming on the man advantage. The full story of the game cannot be told without lauding the performance of Trey Prozzillo in goal for the Royals, as he made some big saves to keep his team in the game. With the win, the Aspen Kings punched their ticket to the championship game.
In the championship game, the Aspen Kings met the Rockets Hockey Club, who also finished the round robin with a 3-0-0 record. In arguably the best game of the weekend, the Aspen Kings won in a 6-5 shootout affair. The Rockets propelled ahead in the first period with two goals, one coming while shorthanded and the other on the power play. The Aspen Kings roared back with three goals in the second period, two coming from McCloud. The Rockets also scored once in the period, this time at even strength, to create a 3-3 score heading into the final period. The Rockets special teams found their groove again in the third period. Josh Sadelski scored his third goal , and his team’s second shorthanded goal of the game. He later added an assist to his point total on Anthony Brereton’s PPG to double the lead for the Rockets. The Aspen Kings weren’t going down without a fight, however, as they scored two goals in just over two minutes to force the shootout. The first two rounds of the shootout saw some fantastic goaltending from Salvatore Mirra for the Aspen Kings and Liam Slattery for the Rockets, as no goals were scored. Zangara played the hero for the Aspen Kings, breaking the deadlock and scoring the only goal of the shootout. Mirra slammed the door to seal the deal and to secure the title for North Jersey.
Great games were not limited to the Aspen Kings’s tournament run, as great games filled the tournament’s slate. On Saturday morning, the Royals and Rockets had a very close game, with the Rockets winning 3-1. Ryan DeMatteo scored the opening goal in the first period for the Royals, but a trio of third period goals, including two points from Kenneth Doctors, gave the Rockets the win. Prozzillo had another great performance in this game, turning aside 41 shots for the Royals.
MYHA Blue sprung the first upset of the tournament on the same day, knocking off the North Jersey Avalanche, 3-1. McNelis’s pair of goals helped MYHA to victory, but nothing came easy for them as Aidan Alvino’s 36 saves for the Avalanche kept the game very close.
The first 14U tournament showcased a lot of skill from some of the best players in this age group, but many more are still waiting to show what they have to offer. The other divisions in the 14U age group (Gold, Silver, B) are set to have their playoff tournaments on March 18-20, which you will not want to miss.