While USA Hockey's Tier III Junior National Championship
is getting underway in Minnesota, the Amateur Athletic Union is hosting their National
Championship in Las Vegas.
Rochester or Las Vegas, where to go?
The Western States Hockey League has hosted
the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas for years, and the event has grown to
include more and more college scouts every year. During this year's Shootout,
WSHL Commissioner Ron White has telling all the college guys about AAU's
National Championship event.
The tournament begins on Friday when the
upstart Bay Area Seals from the WSHL take on the Northern States Hockey League's
Lake George Fighting Spirit at 10:00 AM.
There are two representatives from each of the
three AAU United Hockey Union sanctioned leagues.
the same format as the Thorne Cup Finals, the six teams will be placed in two
flights of three then play the three teams from the opposite bracket(round-robin
format), with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals with the winners playing
for the AAU National Championship on Tuesday April 9.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads (WSHL
Champion)- John Olver's Steelheads are
riding a 24 game winning streak into Las Vegas and have to be considered the
favorite to claim AAU's first National Championship. Idaho could very likely be the best
pay-to-play junior team on the continent.
Bay Area Seals (WSHL Runner-Up) - The expansion Bay Area Seals are the surprise entry for the WSHL. The
team started the season with a 4-13-1 record before acquiring a number of key
players. The stormed through the Shootout with a 4-0 record and have not looked
back since. The Seals dispatched the Valencia Flyers and upset division
champion Fresno Monsters to reach the Thorne Cup finals. It was in Idaho where
the Seals really shined, managing to advance to the Championship game only to
lose to Idaho in the final.
Syracuse Stampede (NSHL
Champion) - Stampede boss Mike Beavis
knows a thing or two about the game of hockey. The veteran coach must have a
million junior hockey miles under him by now and has done a heck of a job
carving out a niche for the Stampede in upstate New York. Led by team captain
Kyle Williams (committed to W New England) and Alex Huizenga (Morrisville
State) on the ice, along with Trace Pennock (Ferris State Div I) between the
pipes, the Stampede could potentially
challenge for a semi-final spot.
Hartland Hounds (MWJHL
Champion) - The Hounds may come into this
tournament with the same ailment as WSHL's Dallas Ice Jets. Both teams ran roughshod
through their schedule with a ridicules win-loss schedule. Dallas was shocked
at the Thorne Cup Finals by Bay Area and has picked up the golf clubs. The
Hounds are going to have to face the music against three of the hottest teams
in the country. Hartland has a good
team, it's just too bad that have not had the opportunity to be tested. Well,
they will be on Friday.
Tennyson Chevrolet (MWJHL
Runner-Up) - Tennyson is kind of in the
same boat as Hartland. Danny Vasquez's group finished third this season and
upset second place Soo Firehawks to secure their trip to Las Vegas. Hartland
made light work of Tennyson in the Veteran Cup finals.
Lake George Fighting Spirit
(NSHL Runner-Up) - Lake George is
led by SUNY-Canton committed goaltender Chris Marsillo and promises to be one
of the stingiest teams at the event... well, on paper anyway. Marsillo put up
impressive numbers this season (16-5-1, 1.94 GAA) and is known to give
So who is going to win? It's entirely possible that the
A-Bracket teams run the table against the B's, something that would create a
mess for the semi-final round. We could also be looking at a rematch of the
Thorne Cup final for the National Championship. In this event, goal
differential is going to be a serious factor. Teams are not going to have the
luxury of letting up because doing so could cost them dearly in the end.
all-star tournament will be run concurrently with the championships, with two
all-star teams from the WSHL (an overage squad and underage team) joining a
team each from the NSHL and MWJHL.
The "Best of the Rest" format will be comprised of a three-game
round-robin, with the top two teams advancing to the championship game on
Monday, April 8.
Below is the schedule for both tournaments:
AAU NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
10:10 AM- Bay Area Seals vs.
Lake George Fighting Spirit
1:20 PM- Syracuse Stampede vs.
4:40 PM- Tennyson Chevrolet vs.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads
10:10 AM- Syracuse Stampede vs.
1:20 PM- Lake George Fighting
Spirit vs. Idaho Jr. Steelheads
4:40 PM- Hartland Hounds vs.
Bay Area Seals
10:10 AM- Idaho Jr. Steelheads
vs. Hartland Hounds
1:20 PM- Bay Area Seals. vs.
4:40 PM- Lake George Fighting
Spirit vs. Syracuse Stampede
April 8 (Semi-Finals)
1:20 PM- High Point #3 vs. High
4:40 PM- High Point #4 vs. High
April 9 (Championship Game)
11:00 AM- Winner 2 vs. Winner 1
the Rest Tournament
9:00 AM- NSHL vs. WSHL (1)
11:20 AM- WSHL (2) vs. MWJHL
9:00 AM- MWJHL vs. WSHL (1)
11:20 AM- WSHL (2) vs. NSHL
9:00 AM- NSHL vs. MWJHL
11:20 AM- WSHL (1) vs. WSHL (2)
10:00 AM- High Point 2 vs. High
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