It’s a very busy Martin Luther King Day weekend for boys and girls youth hockey in the United States despite many areas still being impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
For the boys, there is a NAPHL Tier 1 Central Conference Showcase
in Indianapolis starting Friday, the Tier 1 Sioux Showcase
in South Dakota/Iowa and many other great events and matchups taking place all over the country. Large Girls Tier 1 tournaments also are being held in Florida and Ohio during the holiday weekend.
The NAPHL Showcase features Tier 1 and 2 boys competing at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U levels, with several top-30 Tier 1 and top-10 Tier 2 programs represented.
The Sioux Showcase, with games being scored by our partners at GameSheet Inc.
, and games being streamed live and on-demand by our partners at LiveBarn
, is comprised of boys Tier 1 teams and some top-ranked Tier 2 programs competing at the 14U, 16U and 18U age levels.
The Chicago Bulldogs, the second-ranked 14U Tier 2 team will try their luck in a division featuring strong Tier 1 teams such as the No. 32 Arizona Bobcats, No. 41 Phoenix Jr. Coyotoes and No. 4 Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers. In the 16U division, No. 4 Tier 1 team Honeybaked is the headliner among a group that also includes the eighth-ranked Colorado Thunderbirds, 14th-ranked Anaheim Jr. Ducks, No. 16 Dallas Stars Elite and No. 17 Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers. And at the 18U level, Northstar Christian Academy, ranked fifth overall among 18U teams nationally, is part of a strong contingent that includes the 14thranked Maine Nordiques, 16th-ranked Chicago Mission and No. 25 Colorado Thunderbirds.
And on the girls’ side, the Florida RUSH tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla., includes Tier 1 and 2 teams at the 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U levels, and another tournament in Dublin, Ohio, features some of the top Tier 1 programs in the Midwest for the 14U, 16U and 19U age groups.
There is one special game at the 16U Boys Tier 2 level that we wanted to highlight in particular as our MHR/LiveBarn Featured Game of the Week. Last March, when COVID-19 shut down hockey all over North America, the 16U Texas Tigers and Ashburn Xtreme were ranked first and second, respectively, in the U.S. among all Tier 2 teams. They appeared to be on a crash course to face each other at some point during USA Hockey Nationals.
First the season was halted. Then the USA Hockey National Championships for all levels and age groups were cancelled. Many people, including the players on the Xtreme and Tigers, maintained hope that things would get better at some point and maybe somehow USA Hockey could reschedule Nationals for later in the spring or even in the summer. Players from the two teams even found each other online and began talking about playing a series against each other or setting up a smaller tournament where the top teams could come and play to see who was best.
We wrote about the Tigers’ team and season HERE.
“We won a lot of games, which is great, but the reason we were playing was to win Nationals this year,” forward Brendan Hill said at the time. “We played all of the games and tournaments as part of the process to get to the end goal of winning Nationals. It’s disappointing that the thing I cared about most – Nationals – did not happen.”
As we all know, things didn’t get better, and we are still dealing with a pandemic that continues to spread. The teams never met. But that all changes Friday night.
The Xtreme and Tigers finally will get the chance to play each other at the Alpha Ice Center in Pittsburgh Friday at 7 p.m. Sure, some of the players moved on to 18U or other programs so it won’t be exactly the same kids facing off, but this time they will get to take the ice with Ashburn, which calls Virginia home, ranked fourth and the Tigers ranked fifth.
And we can’t wait.
You can find out more about this matchup and our other Week 15 Games of the Week below.
MYHockeyRankings LiveBarn Featured Game of the Week
USA Boys 16U Tier 2
#4 Ashburn Xtreme vs. #5 Texas Tigers
Friday, Jan. 15 – 7:00 p.m.
Alphia Ice Center – Pittsburgh, Pa.
These two teams finished ranked first and second in the country last year, but never got to play with all USA Hockey National Championships being shut down as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This year, the order of their rankings is reversed, but Ashburn enters the game at No. 4, while Texas is ranked fifth. The Xtreme bring a 34-3-0 record into the contest and are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak in which they have outscored their opponents, 51-10. For the year, Ashburn holds a 234-58 scoring edge over its foes. The Xtreme have held their opponents to one goal or fewer 17 times and scored nine or more goals on 12 occasions. Texas enters the contest with a 33-13-0 record, with four of those losses coming against AAA teams – to go along with four victories against AAA competition. The Tigers have won their last eight matchups against AA foes and have outscored their opponents, 192-105, for the season while winning the Dallas CCM World Invite and Winter Clash Silver Sticks tournaments.
USA Boys 18U Tier 1
#14 Maine Nordiques vs. #16 Chicago Mission
Sunday, Jan. 17 – 4:30 p.m. EST
Tyson Events Center – Sioux City, Iowa
A pair of top-16 Tier 1 18U teams clash as part of the Sioux Showcase being hosted this weekend in South Dakota and Iowa by the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede and Sioux City Musketeers. Maine enters the weekend event with a 25-3-1 record and holding a 131-52 scoring advantage over its opponents. One of the Nordiques’ three losses came in their last outing, a 2-1 setback against ninth-ranked Belle Tire Jan. 10. They had beaten Belle Tire, 8-5, two days earlier and also downed No. 19 Victory Honda, 2-0, Jan. 10. Those were Maine’s first games since Dec. 13. The loss to Belle Tire snapped a seven-game winning streak that dated to a 4-1 loss against the No. 36 Tri-State Spartans Dec. 5. Maine’s only other loss on the year game against the 13th-ranked Boston Jr. Eagles by a 3-0 score Oct. 17. The Mission have seen their schedule limited by COVID-19 restrictions and bring a 6-4-1 record into the weekend. Their last game before the showcase was a 4-2 win against No. 43 Gilmour Academy Prep Dec. 20. They also beat Gilmour, 8-6, Dec. 19. Maine played Gilmour as well, earning three close victories right before the Mission faced the Gladiators. Chicago also played Victory Honda in October, falling by a 4-3 margin, and beat the Tri-State Spartans, 3-1, Dec. 12. The Mission have outscored their foes, 38-25.
USA Girls 14U Tier 1
#6 Philadelphia Jr. Flyers vs. #11 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
Saturday, Jan. 16 – 12:50 p.m. EST
Saturday, Jan. 16 – 6:00 p.m. EST
Sunday, Jan. 17 – 8:10 a.m. EST
UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex – Cranberry Township, Pa.
You get three opportunities to watch these highly ranked Keystone State rivals battle it out over the weekend just outside of Pittsburgh. The first contest will mark the fifth time the teams have met this year, with the Jr. Flyers having won the last three meetings Nov. 14-15 after dropping a 4-1 decision Oct. 24. Those contests in November also happened to be Philly’s most recent games. The Jr. Flyers bring a 18-3-0 record into the weekend, with the other two losses coming against the No. 18 N.J. Colonials and No. 15 Team Illinois. Philly outscored Pens Elite, 8-1, and recorded two shutouts in the November series. The Jr. Flyers also have recorded victories against the No. 2 Mid-Fairfield Stars, No. 4 Valley Jr. Warriors and No. 7 Little Caesars. They have outscored their opponents, 90-18, with 12 of their victories coming by shutout. Pens Elite is 12-5-1 on the year and holds a 72-26 scoring advantage over its opponents. They also played their most recent games Nov. 14 and 15 vs. the Jr. Flyers. Prior to those three setbacks, Pens Elite had put together an impressive 12-2-1 stretch to start the season, with the only losses coming against the top-ranked Chicago Mission and No. 23 Team Colorado back in October.
USA Girls 16U Tier 1
#2 Little Caesars vs. #12 Chicago Mission
Friday, Jan. 15 – 4:50 p.m. EST
Ohio Health Chiller Ice Rink – Dublin, Ohio
In one of the higher-end 16U matchups of the MLK Day Weekend tournament in Dublin, Ohio, the No. 11 Chicago Mission take on No. 2 Little Caesars Friday afternoon. LC is still perfect at 29-0-2 entering the weekend, while similar to their male counterparts, the Mission have had much of their season interrupted by COVID restrictions. Chicago brings a 6-4-0 record into the weekend after playing its first games since October a week ago against No. 8 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. The Mission swept three games vs. Pens Elite, winning twice by a 3-2 margin and once by a 3-0 score. They have won their last four, all against Pittsburgh, after opening the year by going 2-4-0. Five of their six victories are against Pens Elite, with the other win coming vs. No. 20 Belle Tire. Little Caesars is still perfect through 31 outings entering the tournament. They went 3-0 at a showcase at Gilmour Academy last weekend, knocking off the No. 22 Chicago Young Americans, 4-1, the 14th-ranked host Gilmour Gladiators, 8-1, and Northwood School, 3-1. They have allowed more than one goal just once in their last 18 outings, outscoring their opponents, 100-11, during that span.