OJG Tier II 16Us fulfill goal: To win national title
By Sean Shapiro
It wasn’t a dog pile, it was a Grizzly pile.
As the final buzzer went off at the 2017 USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships in Frisco, Texas, the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies Gold team swarmed goalie Alexander Lopez closing out a hockey-filled weekend in North Texas with a 3-0 win against the Chicago Blues in the 3A Division championship game on April 10.
“From the start of last year, this was what they set out to do,” coach Jason Selleke said. “This really was a great group and they were hoping to finish the season this way. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The championship game was a dominant effort by Oakland as they outshot Chicago 36-17, and the defensive structure made it somewhat easy for Lopez to post his 17-save shutout.
“They really committed to that and making sure we did the right things in our own end,” Selleke said. “I think a lot of times teams and kids can get wrapped up in offense, but they really were strong defensively and that made the difference.”
It was a common theme as Oakland only allowed six goals in the tournament and posted a pair of shutouts.
In the championship game, Anthony Cinato opened the scoring 39 seconds into the second period on a power play goal to give the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies a 1-0 lead. Dylan Krawiec then scored at 2:52 of the period to give his team a 2-0 cushion.
The Jr. Grizzlies continued to pressure but couldn’t score their third goal until the 3:38 mark of the third period when Krawiec scored his second goal of the night for a 3-0 lead.
In spite of his team’s loss, Chicago goalie David Trapani was one of the stars of the game and turned away 33 of 36 shots in the championship game.
The championship turned into a meeting between two well-rounded teams that had impressed during pool play and in the elimination games.
The Blues scored at least four goals in each of their first five games and reached the championship game with an 8-1 victory against the Armstrong Arrows.
With that track record, a shutout was even more impressive for the Jr. Grizzlies.
“We knew what they could do, we’d watched them a little bit,” Selleke said. “We didn’t talk about it too much. But the kids knew that defense was going to be the difference.
“I’ve coached these guys for two years, and they’ve always been ready to work and play great defense.”
Oakland reached the championship game with a pair of one-goal victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals. In the quarterfinals, the Jr. Grizzlies defeated Team Wisconsin 3-2 and then dispatched the Foothills Flyers by the same score in the semifinal.
“Those one goal games really help,” Selleke said. “Once again, they worked hard for this.”