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2 Alaska tier two boys hockey teams win national championships

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 11:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The 18U Alaska Oilers and the 14U Alaska Stars are both in the USA hockey tier two division, and they will both be returning to Alaska as national champions.

The 14U Alaska Stars began their tournament on a rocky start, losing their first game 5-2 to the Utah Golden Eagles.

“We haven’t had a game in six weeks because we won state and then there was no one to play after that, because state’s over so we just had to scrimmage ourselves and we came out the first game looking like that’s all we had done.” said Alaska Stars head coach Todd Bethard.

After the opening loss, however, they split the next two games, winning the first against the Tri-City Eagles from Maryland 7-1 and losing to the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes 3-1. Next on their road to the championship was Team South Dakota. The Alaska Stars dominated the game, winning 6-2 to reach the semifinals.

The Stars went up against the Tri-City Jr. Americans, where the game came down to the final two seconds when Ryder Millar buried a rebound to send his team to the national championship game. While the team was chasing the ultimate goal of winning the championship, there was also another goal in mind.

”I was like, you know what, if you guys win nationals, you guys can give me a mullet and they’re like, ‘we’re winning nationals coach,’ so they were pretty excited,” Bethard said. “First thing they said to me and I got in the locker room was ‘where’s the razor?’”

The Alaska Stars beat the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes out of North Carolina 5-3 to take home the title and as of Monday night, Bethard still had his hair, but if his team has anything to do with it that won’t last for long.

The 18U Alaska Oilers had a similar start to their tournament, losing their first game 6-2 to the Rouge Warriors out of North Carolina, but after the initial stumble, the team figured it out. The team won their next three games to earn their spot in the championship. They had to face the Rouge Warriors again, but this time the game was much different, going into overtime tied 3-3, and after an early icing, that is when magic happened.

“We set up the play, won the face off, pad passed, so it was a play for my actual center, said Alaska Oilers head coach Billy Avoletta. “He moves it forward, goes past them, and then passes it off the goalies pad as a set play.”

Tristan Bernsten punched home the game-winning goal, sending his bench into a frenzy. While it was the offense that ultimately won them the championship, Avoletta said that it was the goal tending and the defense that made all the difference. He said that all of his forwards really bought in to back checking and helping the defense out. Avoletta also said that this win is about more than hockey.

“It was so emotional for some of these guys and I really think just understanding that they did it as a team and they did it the blue collar way. I think it goes a long way in as far as them becoming young men to be quite honest.” Avoletta said.

Both teams created moments that will last forever, as they continue through their hockey careers and the rest of their life.

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