It might still be in its infancy, but the NHL Youth Cup tournament has wasted little time solidifying its footing on the national stage.
What started five years ago as an eight-organization, eastern-based event has since evolved into a nationwide festival with a number NHL-affiliated youth hockey programs competing against each other at the Squirt Minor through Bantam Major levels.
This year marked the NHL Youth Cup’s second-ever West Division event, which was held earlier this month in Dallas (2003, 05 and 07 birth years) and The Rinks-Anaheim Ice (04, 06 and 08 birth years) - the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders hosted the East Division showcase - and the Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ 06 and 08 teams both took home championship banners in convincing fashion.
Outscoring its opponents 53-8, the Jr. Kings’ 06 squad ran the table with a perfect 6-0 record, including a 7-3 triumph over the Anaheim Jr. Ducks in the championship game.
The 06 group opened its tournament on Friday, Dec. 1, with victories over the San Jose Jr. Sharks (11-1) and Colorado Thunderbirds (6-1) before taking down the Dallas Stars Elite (6-2) and Nashville Jr. Predators (14-1) the next day.
In their semifinal on Sunday, the Jr. Kings blanked Dallas, 9-0, before their title matchup against the Jr. Ducks.
“It was a neat experience for the kids, and obviously they played extremely well all weekend,” said Jr. Kings head coach Jeremy Daughaday. “The entire group was hitting on all cylinders, and that’s really what’s been fueling our success this season.”
Forward Aidan Park, who was named MVP of the championship game, led the Jr. Kings in scoring with 18 points on 11 goals, and forward Colin Frank recorded a team-high eight assists.
Between the pipes, goaltenders Justin Bayers and Ryan Winkelmann picked up three wins apiece.
Other members of the team include: forwards Quentin Bourne, David Ehrhard, Patrick Fortune, Sean Hawe, Ty Izadi, Nicholas Mardani, Tai Melton and Ethan Weber; and defensemen Tyler Chiovetti, Kenny McIlwain, Drake Murray, Connolly Stice and Hunter Toms.
Carlie Chiovetti and Rob Winkelmann are the team’s managers.
“I can’t say enough about these families and how much I enjoy being around this entire group, on and off the ice,” Daughaday added. “They’re all in it for each other and that’s what it takes to create a winning atmosphere at this level.”
The 08 club also took care of business in its division, outscoring its foes by a 58-6 count on its way to a flawless 6-0 record, including a 4-0 victory over Dallas in the championship game.
The Jr. Kings opened their Youth Cup with victories over the Jr. Predators (18-0) and Phoenix Jr. Coyotes (9-2) before rattling off wins over the Jr. Sharks (11-2) and the Stars Elite (4-0) on Saturday.
In their semifinal on Sunday, the 08s bested the Jr. Coyotes again, 12-2, before their title game against Dallas.
“A big thanks to the Jr. Ducks for hosting this event,” said Jr. Kings head coach James Gasseau, who’s assisted behind the bench by Brad Stuart and Alex Sutton. “It’s always fun for our kids to play in tournaments against teams from outside of California.”
Forward Logan Stuart led L.A.’s scoring charge with 26 point on 18 goals, and forward Tyus Sparks, the MVP of the championship game, chipped in a team-high nine assists.
Between the pipes, goaltenders Goose Faynsod and Morgan Stickney each picked up three victories.
Other members of the team include: forwards Austin Brock, Jake Brown, Benjamin Larson, Nicholas Liu, Cooper Soller and Alofatunoa Taamu; and defensemen Chris Donnell, Jacqueline Gasseau, Adian Liu, Kevin Shi and Noah Sutton.
Tracy Stickney is the team’s manager.
“Tournament weekends like these help our kids learn how to compete as a group,” Gasseau added. “It’s very rewarding to see them grow and learn how to become good teammates.”
In the 2004 division, the Jr. Kings forged a 2-3 record.
Forward Justin Scarbrough led the team in scoring with eight points (six assists), and forward Jackson Ebbott added a team-high four goals.
Goaltenders Vincent Lamberti and Christian Nalle each picked up a win in net.