Jags win PYHL high school title
Published 4:47 pm Friday, March 13, 2009
They’re small and young, but Spain Park found a way to use its talent late in the season to repeat as the High School Division champions for the Pelham Youth Hockey League. The Jaguars jumped out to a 3-0 lead Wednesday and then battled to beat Vestavia, 4-3, with less than a minute to play.
Both teams were scoreless in the first period, but Spain Park had little opportunities on offense, as Vestavia pounded the puck toward senior goalkeeper Marshall Simmons.
“He kept us in the game the first period. They peppered him with about 20 shots in the first period and he shut them out,” Spain Park head coach Brian Crowley said.
That strong stand to start the game, helped the Jags score three goals late in the second period and early in the third. Eugene Williams, Mike Kerr and Patrick Crowley each scored goals to build Spain Park’s lead off assists from Braden Pichel, Dalton Kneiss, Doug Heen and Wade Orlowski.
Vestavia quickly responded, scoring two goals in a span of 30 seconds. With 1:30 left to play, the Rebels tied the match with a solo goal by Nick Snead.
With the game approaching sudden death overtime, Kerr took advantage of a power play situation to score the game winner with: 49 left off assists from Orlowski and Heen.
Simmons finished with 29 saves.
Spain Park, made up of almost all Spain Park students, won the 2008 title, but lost a number of big seniors, including two now playing for the University of Alabama Frozen Tide. This year, Crowley was left to rely on a number of sophomores, freshmen and eighth graders.
The small size of the team was not a factor early, but forced Spain Park to adjust midseason.
“The other two teams had football players and we took advantage of that early, but once football ended, the big boys came out. We were manhandled quite a bit,” Crowley said. “I decided we’re not going to stand up to them physically, let’s play smarter, and that paid off for us.”
The Jaguars were 2-5-3 through January, tying Vestavia, 5-5, to end the month.
“The boys started to figure out we can play with these guys. The ties gave them extra confidence,” Crowley said.
That confidence carried over to the playoffs, as the Jaguars beat Pelham March 10, 5-1, to advance to the championship.
Leading the charge through the season was Pichel, an eighth grader, who led the Jags with 22 points, followed by Patrick Crowley with 21 points.
The Canadiens and Hurricanes were named co-champions as the only two Junior Mite teams this season. The Canadiens beat the Hurricanes only once this season, as the Canes closed out the season with a 9-0 victory Feb. 28. Reed Pittman led the Canadiens with four goals in the last game of the season, while Bryson Hartman followed with three goals. Vint Narvaez had two goals. Drew Gerstenberg, Finn Parkman and Jack Weber each had two assists, while Colton Weber and Jace McBride added one each.
The Rangers downed the Blues, 5-1, March 1 despite snow on the ground outside the arena. Dylan Sampsell led the Rangers with two goals and two assists, while Collyn Sampsell and Joshua Thomas each had one goal and one assist. Alex MacMillan had the other goal for the Rangers, who only lost one game all season. Logan Weber scored the lone goal for the Blues.
The Bruins edged the Rangers, 1-0, in the Squirt championship March 5. Reed Stockton scored the game winner with assists from Timmy O’Shea and Sydnee Goyer.
Another close final helped close the season March 10, as the PeeWee/Bantam Rangers beat the Blues, 4-3. Matt Sheets led the Rangers with a goal and two assists, while Grant Redden had two goals and Solomon “Solo” Earnest had one. Kemper Sanders had three assists. Ben Goodman, Alec Slawinski and Luke Godber scored goals for the Blues, with assists from Jakob Hornsby and Goodman.