Week 22 MHR Games of the Week
USA Hockey Photo
Welcome to March Madness, hockey style!
Starting last week and continuing over the better part of the next month we are in the midst of the most exciting time of the year for youth hockey in the United States as numerous league, state and district tournaments will be held at the Tier 1, Tier 2 and rec levels. Champions will be crowned, trophies will be presented and USA Hockey Nationals berths will be determined.
It was just about a year ago next week that all of our lives took an abrupt turn for the worse as COVID-19 began its spread throughout North America. This time last year hopes were dashed and hearts were broken all over the continent as thousands of youth and junior hockey players saw their seasons come to a screeching halt thanks to a virus that none of us fully understand.
Now, a year later, with vaccines finally being distributed and life starting to slowly return to normal, we look ahead with hope instead of fear and uncertainty. Unfortunately for our good friends to the north in Canada, the opportunities for youth and junior players to return to game play have not been as plentiful, which saddens and disappoints us. But with each passing day there is hope for a return to at least something resembling normalcy – on and off the ice.
With many American teams having to delay their tryouts and the starts to their seasons – and also because state and local restrictions shut hockey down for extended periods in many parts of the country after the 2020-21 youth hockey season started – USA Hockey has pushed back the dates for its National Championships. In turn, many leagues and affiliates have extended their seasons and pushed back their state and district qualifying tournaments.
Usually, USA Hockey Nationals take place in early April for boys at the 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U levels and for girls 14U, 16U and 19U teams. The 2021 tournaments will not begin Until April 28, with some areas of the country sticking to their normal schedules and others pushing qualifying events to early April.
The qualifying madness has gotten underway this weekend with some Tier 1 boys, Tier 1 girls and Tier 2 boys district and district tournaments being played pretty close to their normal dates. With USA Hockey qualifying tournament schedules in some areas being delayed for several weeks, we still have some great regular-season league matchups ahead and some high-quality regular-season tournaments have been added to the calendar.
After what the last 12 months have put us all through, we say let them all play as much as they want!
For our Week 21 Games of the Week we are featuring outstanding girls’ Tier 1 matchups at the 14U and 16U levels and highlighting three boys’ Tier 1 District Tournaments that will determine USA Hockey Nationals berths.
Let the madness begin!
MYHockey Rankings LiveBarn Featured Game of the Week
USA Girls 16U Tier 1
#2 Little Caesar’s vs. #9 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
Saturday, March 6 – 12:10 p.m. EST
Alphia Ice Complex – Pittsburgh Pa.
Watch on LiveBarn
Little Caesars travels all the way from Detroit to Pennsylvania again to face high-level competition in a tournament hosted by Pens Elite. The marquee matchup of the tourney takes place Saturday between LC and the hosts at the Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh. In a year of choppy schedules and limited opponents during long stretches of the season, this will be the sixth meeting of the year between these two powerhouses, with Little Caesars owning a 5-0 advantage in a series that has seen three games decided by two goals and one decided in a shootout. Pens Elite will take yet another stab at ending LC’s season-long unbeaten streak, which now stands at 50 games (48-0-2). The only blemishes on LC’s record are ties against No. 3 Minnesota Elite Grey (3-3) Oct. 16 and the 20th-ranked Chicago Young Americans (0-0) Nov. 14. Since the tie against CYA, Little Caesars has reeled off 24 straight victories. Pens Elite came closest to ending the steak in that shootout loss, a 3-2 heartbreaker in Ohio Jan. 17. Another close call for LC during their steak was a 1-0 victory against CYA the day after their scoreless tie. Friday, in the first day of their stay in Pittsburgh, they had another pair of tight games, knocking off the 27th-ranked Syracuse Valley Eagles, 1-0, and the North American Hockey Academy, 2-0. Little Caesars has outscored its opponents, 274-49 on the year, allowing less than a goal per game and recording 21 shutouts. LC has shut out their last four opponents. Pens Elite, which also was scheduled to play Syracuse Valley Friday, is 12-17-3 in a season that featured has featured two long breaks of a month or more. Their last game before Friday’s contest was a 4-2 loss to LC Feb. 6. They have outscored their opponents, 92-75, while facing the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation.
USA Girls 14U Tier 1
#3 East Coast Wizards vs. #15 Bay State Breakers
Sunday, March 7– 2:40 p.m. EST
The Edge Sports Center – Bedford, Mass.
Watch on LiveBarn
This week we have a March matchup between the top two 14U Tier 1 teams in the New England Girls Hockey League. Despite their rankings, Bay State sits atop the 14U National Upper Winter NEGHL standings with a 9-3-4 record and 22 points, but they have played eight more games than the second-place Wizards, who are 7-1-0 and have 14 points. This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams, with East Coast holding a 6-1 advantage in the season series. The Breakers won the last meeting between the two teams, however, 2-1 Jan. 31, and four of five of the six games have been decided by one or two goals. There have been three 2-0 decisions, with two games decided by 2-1 margins. Overall, the Wizards are 27-2-0 on the season and have outscored their opponents, 111-23. They have held 22 opponents to one or zero goals and recorded 14 shutouts. The only opponent to score more than two goals was the 19th-ranked Massachusetts Spitfires, who forced the Wizards to a shootout before falling, 4-3, way back on Sept. 4. Bay State brings a 21-11-7 overall record into the contest and has outscored its foes, 97-60. The Breakers are unbeaten in the last six contests (4-0-2) and 9-3-5 in their last 17 outings. They have allowed just one goal in their last three games.
Tier 1 USA Boys District Spotlight
14U, 15U, 16U & 18U
The Southeast District Tournament began on Thursday and is being played through Sunday outside of Nashville, with all games available to watch either live or on-demand via LiveBarn from either the Ford Center Antioch or the Ford Center Bellevue.
The Southeast 14U tourney features three of the top-45 teams in the country at this age group – Team Maryland (23), the Nashville Jr. Predators (34) and Florida Alliance. There was an upset Thursday, with the Jr. Preds knocking off Team Maryland, 3-2, but TM rallied to beat Florida Alliance, 3-0, Friday. There would be a championship-game rematch Sunday at 8:20 a.m. CST Sunday at Ford Center Bellevue if TM and the Jr. Preds both win their Saturday matchups vs. the No. 86 Carolina Jr. Canes and Florida Alliance, respectively.
The 15U Southeast District group is even stronger than the 14s, with all four teams ranked among the nation’s top 50, including the fourth-ranked Florida Alliance as well as the No. 32 Jr. Canes, No. 33 Washington Little Caps and No. 49 Jr. Preds. A 5-4 Overtime upset victory by the Jr. Canes over Florida on Thursday has helped them be in control of their destiny as they take on the Little Caps at 2:30 pm CST at Ford Center Antioch. A win for the Jr. Canes and for the Alliance over the Jr. Preds at 1:45 p.m. CST would set up a championship-game rematch Sunday at 11:30 a.m. CST in Antioch.
Another very strong group that features three top-30 teams – No. 23, Team Maryland, the No. 24 Jr. Preds and the No. 29 Florida Alliance – the Jr. Preds find themselves in control after winning their first two games, including a minor upset victory over TM and a 5-0 shutout of the Jr. Hurricanes. They have secured a spot in Sunday’s title game and will have a say in who they play if they knock off Florida Alliance today at 11:30 a.m. CST in Bellevue. Florida advances to a championship-game rematch with a win, but a loss would open the door for TM to advance with a victory against the No. 83 Jr. Canes at 3:30 p.m. CST in Bellevue.
Two top-50 teams highlight the Southeast District 18U tourney, led by the Jr. Preds at No. 11 and 47th-ranked Team Maryland. As expected, the Jr. Preds are in the driver’s seat with wins in their first two games, including a 3-2 victory over TM yesterday. Team Maryland and their local rival, the No. 92 Little Caps, square off today at 10:15 a.m. CST, with the winner advancing to play the Jr. Preds in Sunday’s 10:30 a.m. CST championship game in Bellevue.
On paper, the Mid-America Boys District Tournaments should be dominated by a strong Pittsburgh Penguins Elite club that has the nation’s top-ranked 16U and 18U teams, the No. 10 14U team and the 14th-ranked 15U team. All games in this tournament are being played at the Ohio Health Chiller in Lewis Center, Ohio, and can be seen on LiveBarn. The top-six teams in each age group qualified for the tournament.
Tenth-ranked Pens Elite won their first two games by a combined 10-3 to take control of the 14U tournament, while the No. 17 Cleveland Barons suffered a 3-1 upset loss to the No. 56 Ohio Blue Jackets Friday. That paired with the Blue Jackets’ 5-2 setback against Pens Elite leaves four teams tied at 1-1 with a lot to be decided during Saturday’s three contests, which are scheduled for 2, 2:15 and 2:30 p.m.
Each of the six 15U teams played one game Friday, with the No. 45 Barons, No. 46 Blue Jackets and No. 14 Pens Elite all winning. The six teams will play two contests each on Saturday at 10, 10:15 and 10:30 a.m. then again at 6:45, 7 and 7:15 p.m. The Blue Jackets – Barons game at 7 p.m. could turn out to be a huge one.
Top-ranked Pens Elite rolled to a pair of victories Friday, outscoring their opponents by a 14-4 margin. The No. 23 Ohio Blue Jackets and No. 41 Esmark Stars also went 2-0, setting up a huge game between those two Saturday at noon. With one of those teams certain to lose, a Pens Elite victory against No. 64 Gilmour Academy at 12:15 p.m. Saturday would set them up nicely for the final day of play Sunday.
Not surprisingly, top-ranked Pens Elite sits atop the 18U standings at 2-0 as well along with the 16th-ranked Esmark Stars. They are followed by the No. 22 Ohio Blue Jackets in a very strong division. The Blue Jackets were upset by the No. 34 Tri-State Spartans Thursday, but rallied to beat the No. 60 Cleveland Barons, 7-0, Friday to set up an important game against Esmark Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
The Rocky Mountain District Tournament is being held in Chandler and Scottsdale, Ariz. at the Ice Den facilities in those towns. All games can be seen live and on-demand via LiveBarn. Teams from Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are competing across the four age groups.
In a strong division featuring three teams ranked among the nation’s top 42, the No. 24 Colorado Thunderbirds and 38th-ranked Arizona Bobcats were both 1-0 after Friday’s games. They are scheduled to face each other in what promises to be an important matchup at 6:15 p.m. MST Saturday at Ice Den Chandler. The T-Birds opened play early Saturday with another important contest against the 42nd-ranked Dallas Stars Elite, who dropped their opening contest. The championship game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Ice Den Chandler.
All four teams in a competitive 15U division are neck and neck after going 1-1 through the first two days of competition, so something has to give on Saturday. Each of the Rocky Mountain 15U teams are ranked among the nation’s top 50. Saturday’s games are set for 4:15 and 4:30 p.m. MST at Ice Den Chandler, with the No. 13 Rocky Mountain Roughriders facing the No. 50 Jr. Coyotes first, followed by No. 30 Dallas Stars Elite vs. the 32nd-ranked Colorado Thunderbirds. Sunday’s title game is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. MST at Ice Den Scottsdale.
In a tough division consisting of three top-25 teams, the 11th-ranked Dallas Stars Elite won their first two games by a combined 12-1, including a 5-1 victory over the No. 25 Jr. Coyotes. Meanwhile, the No. 32 Colorado Thunderbirds suffered an overtime loss to the Coyotes Friday, setting up an important game Saturday between the Stars and T-Birds. That game is set for 2:15 p.m. MST at Ice Den Scottsdale, and Sunday’s championship tilt is scheduled for 9 a.m. MST at the same venue.
A 1-0 upset shootout victory by the 74th-ranked Arizona Bobcats over 30th-ranked Dallas Stars Elite Thursday set the 18U Rocky Mountain District Tournament on its ear early and sets up a big game between the Stars and the No. 30 Rocky Mountain RoughRiders Saturday at 12:15 p.m. MST at Ice Den Chandler. The Stars likely will need to win that game in regulation or advance to Sunday’s finals, which would be a rematch between the same two teams in that scenario. If Dallas only manages to get a point out of Sunday’s game, Arizona would advance to the title game with a win against the No. 83 West Coast Renegades. Sunday’s finals are scheduled for 11:15 a.m. MST at Ice Den Scottsdale.