Pittsburgh Huskies U16 squad treasures experience, memories
The Pittsburgh Huskies traveled to Troy, Mich., hoping to bring home a USA Hockey National Championship in the Under-16 Tier II division.
A couple of tough setbacks, including a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Michigan Ice Hawkes in an elimination pool-play game April 5, scuttled the team's chances to make the playoff quarterfinals.
The other loss was a 7-3 final to the Southern Stars (Connecticut), the eventual national champion.
Despite not bringing home the gold, the team was able to bring home memories that will last a lifetime, as well as a 6-0 victory over the Quincy 67s from Massachusetts in one of its three pool-play games.
“The kids really surprised me this season with the execution of the method and style of play that we teach,” Huskies head coach Vic Whann said. “It was a great season.”
Eight players on this year's team went to nationals in 2009 on the Huskies U12 team.
“They realize how hard it is to get back to nationals,” Whann said. “There were lot of talented teams along the way, and they appreciated the journey.”
Christian Miller led the Huskies with five goals and two assists over the three games, while Dustin Davis and Cam Williams each added two goals. Jake Snyder and Nick Whann also put pucks in the back of the net during the tournament.
Davis had a team-best three assists.
The Huskies began the season with some new faces, as eight players from last year's group moved on.
“With that turnover, we really didn't know what we had,” Whann said. “We went into preseason practices trying to formulate lines and defensive pairings that made sense. It was an accomplishment for the kids to come together and play good hockey.”
Whann said a preseason tournament in Detroit, a hotbed for youth hockey, got the team ready for its Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League season.
“Good way to see what we had against some good competition,” he said.
The Huskies battled North Pittsburgh
for the top spot in the Midget U16 division, and finished second in the regular-season standings at 16-3-1.
North Pittsburgh beat the Huskies in a placement game before the start of the season.
“They rattled us pretty good in that game,” Whann said.
But the Huskies came back and beat North Pittsburgh, 4-3, in an early-season game, and it proved to be North Pittsburgh's only PAHL loss, as North Pittsburgh would go on to win the regular-season and playoff championships.
The Huskies hoped to meet North Pittsburgh in the Midget U16 championship game, but they were upended by the Butler Valley Dawgs, 3-2, in the semifinals.
“I think we looked past Butler Valley, and Butler Valley is a good team,” Whann said. “We beat them three times during the course of the regular season, and I think we suffered a little bit from overconfidence. I give Butler Valley all the credit in the world. They took it to us.”
Whann said that lost to Butler Valley helped the team refocus for the state tournament and their shot at nationals.
“That loss let the team know that you can't take anything for granted,” Whann said. “You have to come out and work hard every game. You have to play disciplined. It was a good learning tool going into states.”
The Huskies started the state tournament at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon with a 2-1 overtime shootout loss to the Mid-State Mustangs, but they didn't get rattled and fired off three straight wins to take the state title.
“That was a tough loss, but we gained a valuable point from it,” Whann said.
Included in that run was a 5-3 triumph over North Pittsburgh and a little revenge against Butler Valley.
“We knew going into the state tournament that North Pittsburgh was the team to beat,” Whann said.
“The North Pittsburgh game was arguably the best game we played all year. We changed things up a little bit to combat their style of play. The luxury of playing them four times in the season gave us the opportunity to put in a game plan that we felt would be able to stop them. The kids really executed that game plan.”
Goaltender Clay Bachman stopped 137 of 145 shots for a .945 save percentage.
“We had some tremendous goaltending throughout the season,” Whann said.
Miller led the Huskies in the state tournament with five goals and three assists, while Davis added three goals and three assists.
Michael Love is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.