South Dakota’s team of 14-and-under hockey players ended their championship run today against the Alaska Stars in the quarterfinal round of the national hockey tournament. Team South Dakota (Team SD) lost 6-2.
Alaska jumped out to an early lead, scoring less than two minutes into the game. It was the first time during the national tournament that Team SD had not opened a game with the lead. The Stars pressed the action, scoring again with 5:13 left in the first, and Team SD ended the period down 2-0.
“The last three games we jumped off to early leads and today they got the lead on us – which we prepped them for; we know we’re not always going to do that,” said Head Coach Brian Prisbe. “We fought back hard, but that team was good with the puck, good with their sticks, and fast and a solid hockey team.”
The second period saw both teams evenly matched, but an apparent opening goal by Team SD was negated by a referee’s inadvertent whistle. Soon after, Alaska capitalized on the momentum shift, scoring another goal with 5:48 left to lead by three.
Pierre forward Carter Sanderson kicked off the scoring for Team SD with 4:44 left in the second. Aberdeen forward Brady Huff passed to Sanderson, who chipped the puck in backhanded for the goal.
“Huff took the puck down below the net [and] I stood up in the slot,” Sanderson said. “He passed the puck across and I backhanded it in.”
An Alaska penalty with just over three minutes left in the second set up a Team SD powerplay, and Rapid City forward Colton Merchen fired a goal to pull Team SD within one.
“They tried to break the puck out; it hit my chest, [and it] fell down in front of me,” Merchen recalled. “I got control, shot it on net; it hit their guy and then went in.”
But Alaska struck again with a tap-in goal less than a minute later to extend their lead. Team SD went into the locker room after the second period down 4-2, after being outshot 22-11.
Early in the third, Team SD again appeared to score, but the goal was nullified when officials determined a Team SD player was in the goal crease.
Late in the period, still down by two and with time running out, Team SD pulled goalie Gavin Covrig for an extra skater. The Stars put in two empty net goals to seal the victory.
Aberdeen defenseman Jaxon Danielson recalled his experience with Team SD.
“The best part about being on Team South Dakota is definitely being able to go to all these tournaments and places, and meeting new people and new parents – and just having fun at tournaments, winning, [and] just sharing all the memories,” Danielson said. “And I’m proud of representing Team South Dakota.”
Coach Prisbe noted that the future of Team SD at the 14U level looks bright.
“It was a super-fun run here at the national championship; twenty great kids representing South Dakota,” he noted. “It’s pretty exciting too that we have, I think, eleven or ten of them that are 2007 birth year that can come back and play again at the same level next year and ride off the momentum we carried in this tournament – and [we] hope to go farther next year.”