AK Selects 2001 win Little Caesars Hockey Challenge
A group of 12 year old Alaskans traveled to a competitive AAA tier1 hockey tournament earlier this month in Detroit, Michigan. The team is known as the 2001 AK Selects which is a group created in the spring of 2013 by Chicago native, Dave Ruiz. The concept was to create AAA caliber weekly skates and games with competitive youth hockey players within Alaska. The players on the team were selected under the criteria of individual talent, work ethic, team play and overall character. The program gives players an opportunity to play at the highest level of hockey available, despite geographically where players live. The AK Selects program has over 40 players participating in spring skates who reside as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Soldotna. The 2001 AK Selects team was given the opportunity to play in the Hometown Hockey Challenge in Detroit, sponsored by nationally ranked Little Caesars.
After a long journey from Alaska to Detroit, the Alaskans took to the ice in an exhibition game against the 2001 AAA Jr. Grizzlies Sept. 18. The Grizzlies came out and set the tone for a very fast, physical game. The Grizzlies shocked the Selects with a goal early in the 1st period. The Selects quickly made adjustments and answered back with a pair of goals to take the lead at the end of the 1st period. The Selects scored 3 more in the 2nd period to take a commanding 5-1 lead going into the 3rd. The Grizzlies did not lay down putting 3 more in the net in the third. Alaska scored their 6th goal to finish the Grizzlies off for a 6-4 final.
The second exhibition game was on Sept. 19 against the USA Hockey Sponsored ADM model AAA team, Orchard Lake United. The game was played on a reduced sized ADM rink, approximately 3/4 size of a normal rink. The United showed no mercy scoring 2 quick goals early in the period. The young Alaskans quickly adapted to the new format and responded with 2 back to back goals. The contest was a battle between the two teams to the finish. Late in the third period, being down by 3 goals, the Selects began their final come from behind run. They tallied up 3 goals in the final minutes to tie the 2nd ranked Michigan tier 1 team, 11-11.
The AK Selects began their tournament début Sept. 20 against Toronto powerhouse, York Express. The speedy York team wasted no time putting up their first goal in the first few minutes of the 1st period. The Selects settled in and scored 3 goals in the second, and pounded 2 more in the third to stun the Canadian team 5-1.
The second game of the day the Selects met the nationally ranked Cleveland Barons. The Selects scored first midway in the 1st period. The Barons answered right back before the period’s end to tie it up. The Selects physically dominated the Barons, putting up 3 more goals in the 2nd to take a comfortable 4-1 lead at the end of the period. The Barons proved they would not go down quietly and continued to battle in the third. After a barrage of shots, the Barons finally began to rally back to tie the Selects 5-5.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, Alaska faced the Michigan based Woodhaven Leafs. Despite battling through several penalties, the Selects managed to corral a commanding 4 goal lead by the 3rd period. The Leafs fought back and scored 2 power play goals in the 3rd period, but not before the Selects sealed the contest 5-2 for the victory.
At the end of the preliminary round robin games , the Selects clinched their division and secured a spot as the #2 seed overall to advance to the semi-finals . The selects met the Saginaw Jr. Spirit in the semi-final game. The Selects again got into penalty trouble in the 1st and 2nd periods. After killing off penalty after penalty, the Selects finally scored a pair of goals in the 2nd period. The 3rd period was back and forth action between the two teams with the Selects putting up another goal to take a 3-0 lead. The superior goaltending kept this Selects team ahead in this contest. Saginaw pulled their goalie to add another skater and slid one past the Selects with a minute left in the game. The one goal was not enough as the AK Selects topped the Jr. Spirit 3-1 and would move on to the Championship.
The final game of the weekend against nationally ranked Little Caesars South would prove to be the toughest game yet, playing them on their home ice. A long way from home, the Alaskans made themselves right at home on the ice and scored in the first 20 seconds of the game. The Selects used that momentum and continued their tough physical play to put in a second goal to take a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. The 2nd period drew fire in the eyes of the Little Caesars players. They turned up the intensity on the Selects with a multitude of shots and physicality. The Selects goaltending answered with save after save to protect their lead. The 3rd period ensued with Little Caesars intensity on the Selects. Little Caesars pulled their goalie to add a 6th skater in the final minute and connected with their first goal with 53 seconds left in the game. The final seconds of the game was complete mayhem on the ice. The Selects scored an empty netter with 1 second left to seal their championship victory 3-1. Both teams showed a great level of sportsmanship that after the game the two teams took a group photo and exchanged practice jerseys.
The win gives the AK Selects the invitation to play in the outdoor Winter Classic for a rematch with Little Caesars at Tiger Stadium in Detroit over the Christmas Holiday.
The AK Selects team is coached by Dave Ruiz, Alaska Allstars; Reid McDonald, Blue Devils; Billy Avoletta, Jr. Avalanche; Royle Prince, independent skills instructor; Ron Robbins, Mighty Moose; and special Assistant coach Keith Morris, Alaska Jr. Aces. The AK Selects Roster for the Detroit Championship team :
1 Hannah Hogenson Alaska Allstars Anchorage
3 Galen Brantley III Kenai Hawks Soldotna
4 Brandon Davis Arctic Lions Fairbanks
6 Brandon Lajoie Blue Devils Eagle River
7 Dylan Abbott Matsu Eagles Wasilla
11 Asa Kinnear Northstars Anchorage
12 Keegan McDonald Alaska Allstars Anchorage
17 Cam McDonald Blue Devils Eagle River
26 Jacob Easley Alaska Allstars Anchorage
27 David Ruiz Alaska Allstars Anchorage
28 Jeffrey Bertrand Northstars Anchorage
39 Luke Momblow Blue Devils Eagle River
65 Trevor Prince Alaska Allstars Anchorage
88 Jaden Hewes Northstars Anchorage
97 Tristan Avoletta Jr. Avalanche Wasilla