The Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders entered the 2021 Chipotle-USA Hockey Girls Tier II 16U National Championship as tournament veterans. The team qualified for the 14U Tier II championship event in 2018 and 2019 prior to the 2020 tournament was canceled as a result of COVID-19 guidelines, but the team didn't advance any farther than the quarterfinals. Its first foray into the 16U Division, however, led to a new experience – a national championship celebration.
The Lady RoughRiders partied on the ice at Edge Ice Arena in Littleton on May 3, after captain Emma Compton delivered the game-winning goal in overtime to secure a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Little Flyers and top a field of 12 teams in the 16U Tier II 1A Girls’ Division.
The Lady RoughRiders finished the tournament with a 5-1 record, outscoring opponents 19-5. Their lone blemish was a 2-1 shootout loss in pool play to Team South Dakota, a team that reached the semifinals of the tournament.
Zoe Watson led the RoughRiders in net, stopping 86 of 90 shots on goal in the tournament. Jordan Sewczak and Abigail Schum each amassed a team-high six points and Kaia Carlson scored four goals.
The Colorado Thunderbirds 16U team came within one victory of returning from Maryland Heights, Missouri as national champions. Competing in the Youth Tier I division, the Thunderbirds pulled out tough one-goal victories in tournament play, including a 4-3 win over NJ Rockets in the quarterfinals thanks to an overtime-winner by Noah Grolnic.
It helped set up a title-game rematch with a familiar organization: The New Jersey Avalanche. Teams from the clubs met in the 2010 Tier I 16U National Championship game, in which the Thunderbirds captured a national title.
A repeat was not to be. The Avalanche secured the title with a 5-1 victory. The Thunderbirds took home second, the program's and state’s best finish in the division since 2014.
The Thunderbirds finished the tournament with a 4-2 overall record and their only losses were to the Avalanche (the other in pool play). They outscored all other opponents 15-7. Jack O’Rourke led the team with four goals in three playoff games.
The Thunderbirds 14U also competed at nationals, defeating Michigan-based Compuware 4-3 in Tier I pool play. However, losses to the Boston Jr. Eagles and Los Angeles Jr. Kings in pool play prevented the team from advancing to the tournament. Grant Young and Trey Hinton scored two goals apiece in the event.
The Arvada Gold 14Us nearly brought home hardware from the Youth Tier II 3A Division. The boys stormed through the event in Dallas, tallying four wins and an 18-4 goal differential en route to an appearance in the tournament semifinals. A 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings ended the run. Seven different Arvada skaters scored more than once. Carson Petz and Mario Rodriguez each finished with a team-best four goals, while Caleb Pickett and Gabriel Kennedy tallied a team-leading four assists apiece. Goalies Chamberlain Nocera and Derek Wood combined for 100 saves on 107 shots.
In the program’s first girls’ 14U season, Krivo School of Hockey nearly reached the pinnacle, falling 2-1 in overtime of a semifinal matchup against eventual champion Detroit Honeybaked (Michigan).
Krivo finished with a 3-2 overall record, with its other loss coming in tournament seeding play to Glenview Stars from Illinois. Lilly Wood and Shayla Beaudette each finished with five goals to lead the team. Wood earned a hat trick in a 6-1 win over the Tri-City Eagles (Maryland) in seeding play, and Beaudette scored the goal in the semifinal game.
Team Colorado had teams qualify for the Girls Tier I event in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The 14U team tallied a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Colonials in their final game but failed to reach tournament play. Evelyn Latka, Lilly Place, Masyn Mullin, and Alana Bouthillette each scored once in the event. The 16U team recorded three defeats at the national tournament, but not before Seneca Urban and Macy Gehrke tallied goals.
The Littleton Youth Hockey Association also had two teams reach nationals, with a 16U and 18U team competing in the Youth Tier II 3A Divisions in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The 16U team went 2-1 in pool play, with a 2-1 victory against the Affton Americans (Missouri) and a 2-0 defeat of Central Connecticut Youth Hockey sending Littleton to the tournament. The Hawks fell 4-1 to the Chicago Jets in the quarterfinals.
Holden Spence led the team throughout the event with two goals.
The 18U team recorded three consecutive defeats despite goals from Nicholas Bova, Easton Burg and Keith Barrett Oxenreider in the final game.
The Rocky Mountain RoughRiders 18U team didn’t find the same success as their female counterparts. Playing in a tough Tier I division, the boys failed to advance from pool play after losses to the Maine Nordiques (4-2), New York's Rochester Youth Hockey (7-3) and Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets (4-1). Trace Norwell led the team with three goals.
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