Tier II states find Boulder, Littleton collecting banners
After the Littleton Hawks 18U team won a Colorado Amateur Hockey Association Tier II state title back in December, two more championships were decided the first weekend in March at the South Suburban Ice Arena in Littleton.
The Hawks 16U team won the organization’s second Tier II state crown of the year and then the Boulder Hockey Club took the 14U championship. Both teams move on to the USA Hockey Youth Nationals, which run March 31-April 4.
Littleton 16U coach Kevin Whalen said winning states was “a very rewarding experience,” culminating with a 5-0 win over the Foothills Flyers on March 6. Dillon Whalen stopped all 14 shots in goal for the shutout.
“My assistant Brent Mueller and I took a young and inexperienced team (only four returners from 2014-15 season) and being part of the Central States Development Hockey League, they had to learn how to consistently compete on each shift and become men,” said Whalen. “It took a while, but starting in December, it clicked and we were 23-1-1 in our last 25 games.”
In the state tournament, the Hawks went 3-0. Bradley Stieduhar netted five goals in two games and Nathan Compton scored once with four assists in three games.
“Littleton is an organization with great expectations of each team,” Whalen said. “They have a winning tradition. I’m not sure they expected our level of success from our team with the inexperience, but we exceeded their expectations and fit nicely into their winning tradition. Early on, the staff developed a culture of hard work, competitiveness, accountability, being able to deal with adversity and a brotherhood. The boys bought in to that culture which is what has brought us our success so far.”
The Hawks now travel to Wayne, N.J., for the national tournament
“My expectations for the boys are to continue to compete every shift,” said Whalen. “We have been fortunate enough to play against a number of top teams in the nation being part of the Central States League, so we know what it takes to win. Nationals is exciting, but is just a tournament. With one-game elimination after the round robin, anything can happen. I think if the boys compete as they have, we will have success.”
For Boulder coach Chris Lockrem, seeing his squad celebrate was something he envisioned last summer.
“Winning the state championship was a goal we set for ourselves on the very first day we met as a team,” said Lockrem. “We knew it was the last year in our current facility (Boulder Valley Ice) and we wanted to send the building off in a proper way. The season is a grind and to end up with the championship banner is awesome. It is great for these kids to set a goal and accomplish it. This is something they can take with them the rest of their lives.”
The Bison fashioned a perfect 3-0 mark at states and finished it off with a 4-1 win over CSAHA. In the clinching game, Jacob Ivener posted two goals and an assist and goalie Ian Capdevielle made 19 saves. Ivener and Jackson Tillinghast led Boulder with four points each.
“This team is a true team,” added Lockrem. “Everyone had a role and understood it. Every player on the team contributed in some way. Colorado Springs is a formidable opponent – they had beaten us twice in the regular season and we knew they had a high-octane offense. We put a plan together and we held them to one goal in each of our state playoff games against them. The kids stuck to the process and got it done. We are so proud of them.”
Nationals for the 14U AA level are slated for Charlotte, N.C.
“We feel we are playing our best hockey right now, so we have high expectations,” Lockrem said. “We are just honored to be playing in such a prestigious tournament.”
The Littleton 18U AA team will head to nationals in Amherst, N.Y.
— Matt Mackinder