The Southcentral Alaska Wolves are turning every game at the USA Hockey Tier II 18-and- under national championships into a thriller.
The Wolves on Friday beat the West Haven (Conn.) Blue Devils, 2-1, to advance to Saturday's quarterfinals in Lansing, Mich. Southcentral is wedded to 2-1 games -- the Wolves lost their opener 2-1 in overtime and lost their second game 2-1 in regulation before winning by that familiar score Friday.
Of the seven Alaska teams at various national tournaments, five advanced to Saturday quarterfinals.
The Wolves (1-1-1) used two goals from Ben Heafer, including the game-winning short-handed strike, when he danced through West Haven's defense in the second period. Dustin Fritz made 16 saves for the Wolves.
The Alaska Blue Devils Tier II 12-U team (2-1-0) advanced to the quarters after racking a 7-0 win Friday over the Reston (Va.) Raiders in Virginia. John Hammer delivered two goals and two assists, Zachary Krajnik furnished one goal and three helpers, Sutton McDonald and Nathan Sperry each contributed one goal and one assist, and Porter Schachle and Zachary Plucinski scored goals. Trent Burnham made 18 saves for the shutout.
In Wayne, N.J., the Alaska All Stars Tier II 14-U boys (2-1-0) beat the Tampa Bay Raiders, 8-5, to advance to the quarters. Payton McSharry led the way with a hat trick, Jacob Garman added two goals and Nolan Walker had three assists. Carson Briske, Tyler Miknich and Tyler Millar also scored goals.
In girls play, the Team Alaska 19-U girls (2-1-0) qualified for the quarters on the strength of Friday's 1-0 win over the Middlesex Islanders (Mass.) in Frisco, Texas. Madi Davis stopped 27 shots to post her second 1-0 shutout of the tournament and Aimee Rupp delivered the only goal the Alaskans required, scoring on the power play off an assist from Taral Clayton.
The 14-U Alaska Icebreakers girls (2-1-0) of Fairbanks advanced at the Tier II tournament in Frisco, despite losing 3-2 to the Montgomery Blue Devils on Friday. The Icebreakers (2-1-0) led 2-0 on goals from Jessica Carlson and Helenka Brice before surrendering three goals in the last seven-plus minutes, including the game-winner with 87 seconds left.
In Tier I, the highest level of American youth hockey, the Anchorage North Stars were eliminated at the 12-U tournament in Williamsville, N.Y., after losing 7-0 to Chicago Mission. Thursday, the North Stars' 5-4 loss to the Mid Fairfield Blues came against a team that included their former teammate, Tyce Thompson -- he played for the club before his dad, former Alaska Aces bench boss Brent Thompson, got the head coaching job with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and the family moved to Connecticut.
The Tier II Eagle River Glacier Bears (1-3-0) were eliminated at the boys 16-U tournament in Green Bay, Wis., despite splitting two games Friday. The Glacier Bears beat Casco Bay (Maine) 3-2 behind two goals from Brett Wood, a goal and an assist from Quinn Hulse, and 44 saves from Jacob Boswell. But they fell 4-1 later Friday to the Jr. Checkers (N.C.). Troy Bouwens scored the only goal for Eagle River in that game.
In other Tier I action, the Shattuck-St. Mary's 18-U boys (2-1-0) on Friday beat the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals 7-1 in Williamsville with the help of three assists from forward Hunter Fejes of Anchorage. The Sabres, who also include forward Ryan Schwalbe and defenseman Truman Reed of Anchorage, advanced to the quarters.
And the Tier I Shattuck 16-U girls (2-1-0) used an assist from Taylor Schwalbe of Anchorage in a 4-0 win over Little Caesars that pushed it into the quarters in Malborough, Mass.