Two Alaska boys Tier II 14-U boys teams located 360 miles apart — the Anchorage North Stars and Alaska Grizzlies of Fairbanks — earlier this week traveled roughly 4,000 miles by air to Naples, Florida, to play in the USA Hockey National Championships.
After all those miles and all those smiles — both the North Stars and Grizzlies on Saturday advanced to the playoffs — the teams will play in the quarterfinals Sunday.
The North Stars (2-0-1) lost 4-3 in a shootout to the Junior Coyotes of Arizona on Saturday, but nonetheless moved on. The Grizzlies (3-0-0) beat the Atlanta Fire 4-1 to maintain momentum.
Those teams are among four Alaska teams that advanced to Sunday's playoff rounds in the various season-ending national tournaments around the country. Championship games are scheduled for Monday in both Tier I, the highest level of American youth hockey, and Tier II.
Also advancing were the girls Tier II 16-U Anchorage North Stars and the boys Tier II 16-U Arctic Lions of Fairbanks.
Five other Alaska teams were eliminated from tournaments after pool-play wrapped Saturday.
The boys Tier II 14-U North Stars received a goal and an assist from Jakub Hall in their shootout loss, and received goals from Kaden Daniels and Revelin Mack. For the boys Tier II 14-U Grizzlies, Colin Hedland scored two goals, and Alexander Kulmanovsky and Silas Hughes each furnished one goal and one helper.
The girls Tier II 16-U North Stars (1-1-1) advanced to the quarterfinals in Troy, Michigan, with a 2-1 win over Assabet Valley. Amber Steinhilpert notched the game-winning goal, Allison Green scored the other goal, and Gabrielle Gibson and McKinley Hoff stopped 24 of 25 shots.
The boys Tier II Arctic Lions (2-1-0) moved on in Plano, Texas, despite falling 9-0 to the Atlanta Fire on Saturday.
Here's how the other five Alaska teams fared Saturday in getting eliminated:
Tier I boys 14-U: The Alaska Oilers fell 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite to finish 1-2-0 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jack Kerich and Clay Allen each scored a goal for the Oilers and Eddie Makar stopped 32 shots.
Tier I boys 15s: The Alaska Oilers fell 2-1 in overtime to the CCYHA Selects of Ohio to finish 1-1-1 in Scottsdale. Asa Kinnear bagged Alaska's only goal and Teddy Stevens stopped 21 shots.
Tier II boys 16-U: The Alaska Oilers (1-1-1) were eliminated by a 4-3 overtime loss to the Spokane Junior Chiefs, who struck 31 seconds into extra time. Ryan Bailey furnished the Oilers two goals, Ben Martensen racked one goal and one assist and William Yoder stopped 36 shots.
Tier II boys 18-U: The Alaska Wolves lost 8-3 to the Maine Moose in Lansing, Michigan, to finish 1-2-0. Devon Ament delivered one goal and one assist, and Hunter Borst and Chase Schwamm bagged a goal each.
Tier II girls 14-U: The Alaska Pioneers (0-3-0) were eliminated with a 4-1 loss to the North Shore Vipers in Troy, Michigan. Bailey Brunnhoelzl scored the Pioneers' goal and authored all three of her team's goals in the tournament.
In other action involving Alaskans, the Tier I girls 19-U team from Shattuck-St. Mary's of Minnesota, which includes Clair DeGeorge and Avery Dunn of Anchorage, lost 1-0 in a shootout to the Chicago but nonetheless advanced to the semifinals in the Detroit area courtesy of a 2-0-1 record. The Tier I girls 16-U team from Shattuck, which includes Tate Senden of Palmer and Kylie Watts of Chugiak beat the Massachusetts Spitfires 4-0 to improve to 3-0-0 and advance to the semis in the Detroit area.
Advancing in the Tier I girls 16-U tournament near Detroit was Belle Tire (3-0-0), which includes Mikayla Lantto of Wasilla. Belle Tire beat the Boston Junior Eagles 2-0 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Thunderbirds boys Tier I 16-U team that includes Isaiah Saville of Anchorage and Kolby Klingenmeyer of Anchorage was eliminated with a 5-2 loss to Shattuck-St. Mary's of Minnesota. Saville stopped 23 shots in Michigan.