Thunderbirds’ 16U team makes semis at Tier I nationals
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A pair of Colorado Thunderbirds teams played on separate national stages last month as part of the USA Hockey Tier I Youth Nationals.
The 14U team played in Anchorage, Alaska, while the 16U National team traveled to San Jose, Calif.
Angelo Ricci’s 16U squad qualified for the semifinals, but lost 4-0 to eventual champion Shattuck-St. Mary’s. The Thunderbirds upended Team Wisconsin 3-2 in the quarterfinals after downing Team North Dakota and the Los Angeles Jr. Kings in pool play and losing to Detroit Honeybaked.
Ricci said that while disappointed, he knows his team left it all on the ice in San Jose. The Thunderbirds outshot Shattuck-St. Mary’s 38-16, but couldn’t solve goaltender Jack Robbel.
“The guys battled to the very end,” Ricci said. “We played well enough to beat Shattuck, but sometimes that’s how it goes, especially in a one game, do-or-die scenario. This group of young men trust each other and battled through adversity all season long. Our staff was so proud of their effort. You never want to lose, but we can keep our heads held high knowing we emptied the tanks and never ever quit.”
In Alaska, the 14U group defeated Detroit Compuware 4-2 to open the tournament on March 31, but then lost to Team Alaska 2-1 in overtime and eventual national Shattuck-St. Mary’s 5-1.
“Earning a trip to a national championship with your team is immeasurable,” 14U coach Dave Fromm said. “The experience as an athlete having earned a spot against the best teams in the U.S. is fantastic for each player’s growth and maturity. For our program, it gives us more athletes that have high expectations for themselves and their teammates, making our program stronger top to bottom.
“Making it to nationals was fantastic, but having multiple teams earn a trip to nationals every single year speaks volumes for the program’s depth and the momentum that exists every season.”
— Matt Mackinder