By Ryan Evans
PLYMOUTH, Minn.—The 2017 Boys HP15 Spring Festival, Minnesota Hockey's showcase of the top 2002-born players in the State of Hockey, kicked off at Plymouth Ice Center on Friday.
The 240 players in attendance are competing for the chance of being selected to participate in the CCM Minnesota Hockey High Performance Summer Camp in St. Cloud. The top players from the summer camp are then selected to represent Minnesota Hockey at a USA Hockey Player Development Camp.
On the first day of the round robin competition, Districts 6, 10, 2, 5, 3, and 11 emerged victorious over Districts 8, 16, 9, 12, 4, and 15, respectively.
Lleyton Roed (District 2 / White Bear Lake) led all players with four points on the day, while Cullen Hiltner (District 5 / St. Cloud) paced the field with three goals.
District 6 - 2, District 8 - 1
A two-goal second half surge powered District 6 (1-0) out of an early hole and to a 2-1 comeback victory in the opening game of the Boys HP15 Festival.
After being held off the scoreboard through the game's first 38:57, District 6 erupted for two goals in a 4:40 span late in the second half to overcome an early 1-0 deficit. Emmett Wurst tied the game at one with 9:03 to play ahead of a pretty passing play down low from Jack Sabre to Jackson Bisson with 4:23 remaining that capped the rally.
District 6 goaltender Carsen Stokes was perfect in his 24 second half minutes between the pipes to lead his team's resurgence and backstop it to a festival-opening win.
District 8 opened the scoring early, notching the game's first goal just 4:47 into the first half courtesy of a Will Traeger tally. Despite the heavy District 6 pressure that followed, District 8 goaltender Derek Manzella kept the opposition at bay and his sheet clean in the first 24 minutes to stake his squad to a 1-0 lead at the intermission.
District 16 - 1, District 10 - 4
After trading goals to open the first half, District 10 (1-0) closed out the game with three unanswered tallies to pull away from District 16 (0-1).
District 10's Hunter Hanson and District 16's Zakary Kennett went back and forth to open the scoring. Hanson staked District 10 to the game's first lead 3:49 into the contest ahead of Kennett's tying score 11:17 later.
Cole Hansen re-gained District 10's lead with 4:52 to play in the first half and his team did not look back from there.
Up by one, District 10 asserted itself immediately out of the second half gates, gaining an unassisted tally from Tommy Carls just two minutes into the stanza to go up, 3-1. Luke Kron tacked on another with 15:39 to salt away the victory.
District 10's Zachary Michaelis led all players with two points (0+2), providing assists on Hansen and Kron's tallies.
District 9 - 4, District 2 - 6
District 2 (1-0) and District 9 (0-1) went back and forth in a high-scoring, see-saw battle before District 2's Nikolai Dulak sealed a 6-4 win for his side with a pair of late third period goals.
The teams traded tallies throughout a high-scoring 48 minutes. Neither district had better than a one-goal lead until Dulak's empty-net tally with 19 seconds remaining made it 6-4 and secured the win.
District 2's duo of Lleyton Roed and Lucas Hamp was lethal in the win, registering four (1+3) and three points (2+1), respectively. Overall, six District 2 players had multi-point outings.
District 2 led by one, 3-2, after the first 24 minutes, but saw that advantage evaporate just 41 seconds into the second half on District 9's David Nesburg unassisted equalizer. In the ensuing 23:19, District 2 gained and lost another one-goal advantage before Dulak's first marker broke a 4-4 deadlock with 4:22 to play and put it ahead for good.
District 12 - 4, District 5 - 6
A pair of early two-goal deficits did not faze District 5 (1-0) as a four-goal second half rally sparked it to a 6-4 win over District 12 (0-1).
District 12 jumped out to early 2-0 and 3-1 leads, but District 5 pulled within one, 3-2, with 1:44 to play in the first half on Cullen Hiltner's first of three on the day, which set the stage for their torrid final stanza.
District 5 rattled off three unanswered goals—from Nicholas LeMare, Ethan Cumming, and Hiltner—in a 6:45 span in the second half to claim a 5-3 lead with 11:13 to play. District 12's Wyatt Miskovich's second goal of the game pulled his side within one, 5-4, with 2:19 left on the clock, but Hiltner's hat trick-clinching empty-netter with 1:30 remaining ended District 12's comeback hopes and sealed his team's bounce back win.
District 4 - 0, District 3 - 5
District 3's (1-0) offense came out red hot against District 4 (0-1), flexing its muscle and scoring early and often in a 5-0 win.
Christopher Kernan opened the scoring just 4:51 into the game and the floodgates opened from there. District 3 raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first half, scoring three times in 8:57, and piled on twice more in the second half.
Not only was District 3's attack potent, it also spread the wealth effectively. Four different players scored a goal and eight registered at least one point.
Joe Miller enjoyed a standout day, offensively, for District 3, leading the team with three points (1+2), while Kyle Kukkonen paced the team with two goals.
District 11 - 6, District 15 - 3
With the score deadlocked at three apiece, District 11 (1-0) scored three unanswered goals in the final 14:18 of the second half to pull away from District 15 (0-1), 6-3.
Three District 11 skaters had multi-point outings, including Jacob Jeannette, who had two goals, including the game-winner with 14:18 left to play in the second half. Blake Biondi and Brayden Tyman rounded out District 11's scoring.
The loss was not for a lack of effort on District 15's part, though. Anthony Mengini staked it to the game's first lead just 2:51 into the contest, but District 11 rebounded with three-straight goals to put District 15 in a 3-1 hole with 23:50 to play. District 15 rallied with goals by Shane Donovan and Jakob Stender in a 4:13 span after that, though, to knot the score at three before District 11's decisive three-goal outburst.