The 2017 CCM High Performance Tier I Leagues came to a conclusion this past weekend with Green Giants (Girls 14U), Walleye (Youth 14U) and Blue Ox (Youth 15) being crowned League Champions. Each of the champions as well as other top teams at their respective levels will compete for a bid to the 2018 USA Hockey National Championships at the Minnesota District Tier I Playoffs on October 7-8 in Plymouth, MN.
The Green Giants entered League Playoffs as the heavy favorite, and they didn’t disappoint, winning both of their games en route to their second consecutive Taconite Trophy at the Girls 14U level. The Lakers finished in second place after sneaking by the Polars, who earned the 3rd place title, 4-3 in overtime during the semifinals.
The best game of tournament though took place in the consolation game between the Moose and Blue Ox. The Moose trampled the Blue Ox 6-0 in the first game of the weekend, but a loss to the Polars in the third-place game set the stage for a rematch. The Blue Ox earned one goal leads on four separate occasions. Each time the Moose fought back to tie it, sending the game to overtime and eventually a shootout, where the Blue Ox outlasted the Moose 5-4.
The Minnesota District Girls 14U Tier I Playoffs will pit the Green Giants against the Blue Ox and the Lakers versus the Polars in the first round. The winner will automatically qualify for the 2018 USA Hockey Girls 14U Tier I National Championships in Marlborough, Massachusetts on April 5-9, 2018.
When the sixth seeded Voyageurs pushed third ranked Walleye to a shootout on the opening night of Youth 14U League Playoffs, there may have been some thinking the Voyageurs simply caught their opponent sleeping. Instead, the game proved to be preview of two of the top teams.
The Walleye prevailed 3-2 in sudden death rounds of the shootout over the Voyageurs. From there on, they rolled through the rest of the tournament posting wins of 3-0 and 5-1 to claim the Youth 14U League Championship.
Meanwhile, the Voyageurs continued their upward progression knocking out the Loons and beating fourth seeded Polars by a score of 7-3 to earn a trip to the third-place game. Then, strong goaltending and a two-goal third period enabled the Voyageurs to topple the Moose 4-2 to finish third and receive the final seed to the Minnesota District Playoffs.
The Green Giants, who entered the League Playoffs as the top seed, finished in second place. The Green Giants used a pair of 4-2 wins to advance to the finals but fell victim to a slow start in the championship game, which they dropped 5-1 to the Walleye.
The Minnesota District Youth 14U Tier I Playoffs will feature the Walleye against the Voyageurs and the Green Giants versus the Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the first round. The winner will automatically qualify for the 2018 USA Hockey Youth 14U Tier I National Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 5-9, 2018.
With six of the ten games being decided by a single goal and only one game being decided by more than a two goals, the Youth 15 League Playoffs may have been the most competitive of any level.
The League Championship was a perfect example of the intense nature of the entire weekend. Featuring the Blue Ox and the Lakers, the game was scoreless after two periods. The Blue Ox scored early in the third to take a 1-0 lead. The Lakers pressed back and eventually evened the score 1-1, netting an extra attacker goal with less than a minute left, but the Blue Ox answered back with a tally of their own before time ran out to secure the 2-1 win and the Taconite Trophy.
The Walleye, who entered the tournament as the top seed, rebounded from a 2-0 semifinal loss to the Lakers with a 3-2 win over the Moose to finish in third place. The Green Giants also battled back from a 1-0 loss to the Lakers in the quarterfinals to win the consolation title and fourth seed to the Minnesota District Playoffs.
The Minnesota District Youth 15 Tier I Playoffs will consist of the Blue Ox taking on the Green Giants and the Lakers facing the Walleye in the first round. The winner will automatically qualify for the 2018 USA Hockey Youth 15 Tier I National Championships in Plymouth, Michigan on April 5-9, 2018.
The Minnesota District Playoffs will consist of four teams at each level competing in a single elimination format. Semi-final matchups will take place on Saturday, October 7, and the championship games will be held on Sunday, October 8.
All of the games will be streamed live by Sports Content Management (SCM), the official online broadcaster of the CCM High Minnesota Hockey High Performance Tier I Playoffs at the Youth 14U, Youth 15 and Girls 14U levels. SCM specializes in live streaming, video production, tournament management and content creation. Since 2006, SCM created and streamed games for MyFoxHockey.com, Let's Play Hockey and the Catholic Sports Network.