Three area minor hockey teams will be going away for Spring Break next week but that doesnt mean they will be going on vacation.
Two girls contingents, the Potsdam Ice Storm 16U and St. Lawrence Thunder 14U, are headed to San Jose, California, to compete in their respective Tier II tournaments while the St. Lawrence Thunder Bantam Boys travel south to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they will set their sights on winning a national Tier II 14U championship after reaching the title game last spring in New Jersey. The national tournaments each face-off on Wednesday, April 3, and continue through to Sunday, April 7.
All three local quads consist of players from several North Country communities. The two Thunder teams are sanctioned through Massena Minor Hockey and the Ice Storm through the Potsdam Junior Hockey Association.
POTSDAM ICE STORM
Coached by Mike Grant along with assistants Rick Miller and Shawn Grant, the Potsdam Ice Storm defended their New York State Tier II championship on their home ice when they went 5-0 as host of this years tournament the weekend of March 8-10 at Pine Street Arena.
The core members of the Ice Storm were part of the team that advanced to the semi-finals of the national tournament in Texas last spring.
About half the team is back and those players know just how close they came to playing in the championship game. Having that experience and having strong younger players like we do, definitely gives us some confidence, said coach Grant.
Ive been doing a little research and I like the matchups we have. We arent in over our heads by any means, he added.
Along with competing as members of the Ice Storm throughout this past winter, the majority of the players on this years team were part of the high school teams at Massena and Potsdam Central. The St. Lawrence Central and Canton Central teams are also well-represented. The duo of Allie Compeau and Maddi Dillabough has handled goaltending duties. The blueline corps includes Colleen Besaw, Shannon Casey, Ellen Greene and Natalie Giglio. A well-balanced and versatile group of forwards includes; Kirstin Barkley, Bailey Dillabough, Kalie Grant, McKaylee Boak, Mia Jermano, Ally Miller, Kelley Paduano, Kelsey Green, Lydia Cosgrove, Jennifer Tardelli and Emily Wilmshurst.
This has been just a great group to work with, noted Grant. They get along with each other on the ice and they also get along with each other when theyre off the ice.
At the Tier II Nationals, the Ice Storm will be grouped in the American Conference for their three preliminary round games. They open against the Steel City Selects on Wednesday at 11:15 a.m. before taking on the Princeton Tiger Lilies on Thursday at noon and the Grand Rapid Griffins on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The San Jose Junior Sharks and Chicago Bruins are also in the American Conference.
The six teams competing in the National Conference are the Anaheim Lady Ducks, Arizona She Wolves, Assabet Valley, Carolina Junior Hurricaness, East Coast Wizards of Massachusetts and the Vermont Sharks.
The top four teams in each conference after the round-robin stage advance to the quarter-finals slated for Saturday morning. The semi-finals are Saturday night and the championship game is Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Its fun to be a part of all this. Ive never been to the West Coast so its going to be a new experience for me, Grant noted. Itll just be nice to finally touch down, get settled into the hotel then get to the rink and play some hockey.
The players are very focused. After winning the state tournament, we talked about how we didnt plan to lose again the rest of the season. Well see if we have six more wins left in us. If we do, we win a national championship, he concluded.
THUNDER BANTAM BOYS
Guided by veteran coach Bobby Smith and assistants Dan Bero, Mike McCormick and Chris Kormanyos, the Thunder Bantams skated to their third straight Tier II 14U title by going undefeated at this years championship tournament in Amherst the second weekend in March.
The Thunder 14U lineup includes; Nate Bressard (F), Dan Casey (D), Jon Paul Chauvin (F), Riley Clark (F), Bailey Conklin (F), Shane Cryderman (D), Nick Henrie (D), Jarrad Jackson (G), Noah Kormanyos (G), Andrew McCormick (F), Kaden Pickering (F), Jordan Robert (F), Ben Sprague (F), Turner Thomas (F), Josh Underwood (D), Wyatt Wilmshurst (F) and Sam Woods (F).
They will be one of 16 teams competing in Division 3A of the national Tier II 14U championships. The Thunder are in the NHL group for the preliminary round and will make their tournament debut on Wednesday at 8 a.m. against the Pittsburgh Predators. They return to the ice for their second game on Thursday against the Montgomery Blue Devils starting at 3:20 p.m. before closing out the first round against the Denver Junior Pioneers on Friday starting at 8 a.m. The other 12 teams are split into the Olympic, Liberty and USA divisions.
The top two teams in each division after the preliminary round advance to the quarter-finals slated for Saturday afternoon. The semi-finals are Saturday night and the championship game is scheduled for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
THUNDER GIRLS 14U
Coached by Renee Young and assistant William MacCuaig, the Thunder Girls 14U captured the state Tier II championship with a weekend sweep of their games in Clinton the second weekend in March.
The majority of the players were also part of the Thunder Girls 12U team that won the state championship two years ago and advanced to the quarter-final round of the national Tier II tournament held in Anaheim, California.
We did really well two years ago at nationals with pretty much the same team and were looking to do even better this year, said Young, who served as an assistant coach on the 2011 squad that went to California.
Its nice to be going back with this group because it does have experience. We wont have to fight the nerves as much and were a little more confident this time around that we can go out there and compete. We also have the skills and mental strength to go out there and win, she added.
The Thunder head to the West Coast with a 38-13-4 record. Sidney Molnar backstops the team behind a defensive unit that includes; Madison Cullen, Jordan Emerson, Samantha Mace, Maddie Mailhot, Mikenna Merry and Kerrigan Rondeau. A well-balanced contingent of forwards includes Elizabeth Collins, Raechel Davis, Kaitlin Irvine, Katie MacCuaig, Mary Kate Mace, Molly OConnell, Abbie Paquin, Maya Swamp and Jayden Young.
One of our strengths is our depth at forward. We dont just have one line or one player that can score. All our lines have put up good numbers and thats what has got to this point in the season, Young noted.
The Thunder will one of 12 teams vying for the national title in San Jose. One of six teams in the American Division for the preliminary round, they take on the East Coast Wizards of Massachusetts in their opening game on Wednesday at 7 a.m. They return to action Thursday at 6 p.m. against the New Jersey Colonials before wrapping up the round-robin stage on Friday against the Nashua Panthers starting at 11 a.m. The Naperville Sabres and San Jose Junior Sharks are also grouped in the American Division while the six National Division teams include the Connecticut Ice Cats, the Cape Cod Storm, the Colorado Selects, the Alaska All-Stars, the Lady Vipers and Wyoming.
The top four teams in each division earn a bid to the quarter-final round on Saturday. The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday evening and the championship game is set for Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
Our first game is going to be very tough so well have to come out ready to play, noted Young.
This is a great opportunity for everyone. We want to go out there and do the best we can. No matter what happens, well be making memories that were never going to forget.