Little Caesars 15U falls in national championship game
A home-town advantage wasn’t enough for the Little Caesars 15U team.
The squad, coached by former Red Wing Kris Draper who’s a special assistant to the Wings’ GM, reached the final of the USA Hockey Tier I 15-Only National Tournament at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth. But the team dropped a 2-1 decision to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres on April 10.
Mark Estapa scored Caesars’ only goal, at the 10:45 mark of the third period, to cut the deficit to one. Caesars continued to pressure for the rest of the game, but could not beat Buffalo goalie Luke Pavicich, who made 24 saves in the game.
“In the third period, we showed the resilience and character that we showed all season, and we did everything but tie it up,” Draper told Red Line Editorial, Inc. “In a situation like that, you need a bounce or break or something like that. But the puck was rolling or hitting the goalie.
“In the end our kids battled hard but came up short.”
Declan McDonnell and Austin Robinson scored in the second period for the Jr. Sabres, which won the Buffalo area’s first USA Hockey national championship since 2004.
Draper has watched most of his players grow up.
“A lot of those guys … have been together since they were 9 years old,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch them go from snotty-nosed little kids into real good young hockey players.”
Another area team also made it to its divisional final. The Belle Tire Girls Tier I 19U team fell to Shattuck-St. Mary’s Girls Prep 5-1 on April 9 in Marlborough, MA.
Abby Latorella scored Belle Tire’s only goal, which came on the power play.
The Belle Tire Tier I Boys 18U team went 1-1-1 in round-robin play in the USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18U National Tournament in West Chester, PA, but did not advance past that point.
The team qualified for the national tournament by winning the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association 18U state championship and the inaugural John Kay Memorial Trophy.
Kay was Belle Tire’s longtime hockey director who died suddenly of a heart attack in November at the age of 65.