Team South Dakota 14U Hockey wins National Championship
KALAMAZOO, MI — On Monday, South Dakota’s team of 14-and-under hockey players defeated the Alaska Oilers 6-3 to win the 2022 USA Hockey Tier II 14U National Championship in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
This is the first national championship for a 14U team from South Dakota.
With 9:49 remaining in the first period, Rapid City forward Cameron Ritter scored the first goal of the game on a feed from Pierre forward Carter Sanderson to put Team SD up 1-0.
“We battled hard that first shift, and I think it was the third or fourth shift we got a break,” Ritter recalled. “Sanderson passed it to me back door, and I just backhanded it into the top of the net.”
Later in the first period, Sanderson ripped a shot off the crossbar that dropped in the blue paint behind the Oilers goalie, where Aberdeen forward Carson Myhre knocked it in to give Team SD a two goal lead.
“It feels great, it was a great group of kids; I don’t think we could’ve done it with any other group of kids,” Myhre said. “They were awesome. Everyone worked together and we got it done for South Dakota.”
After two goals from Alaska to tie the game 2-2 in the second period, Team SD regained the lead with 32 seconds left in the period with a goal from Ritter. After a goal from Myhre in the third period to extend the lead to 4-2, the Oilers tipped in a goal with 6:44 remaining to close the gap.
For the rest of the game, solid defense by Beckett Rothrock of Sioux Falls and Jaxson Danielson of Aberdeen held the Oilers in check.
“We all played the best we could, just a group of people trying to go to a common goal,” Rothrock said. “Everyone went all-in; that’s what happens when everyone works together to do something great.”
After a goal from Rapid City forward Colton Merchen of a pass from Brookings forward Riley Linstad and an empty net goal from Sanderson, Team SD would go on to seal the victory 6-3.
“I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of guys. It feels great to be able to represent South Dakota this well,” Sanderson said. “I’m just waiting to get back and celebrate with everybody else.”
Merchen spoke about their approach to the tournament and the championship game:
“Throughout this tournament, during the games, there were a lot of highs and a lot of lows. You’ve got to learn to find that happy medium to fight through both of them,” he said. “You can’t get too satisfied until you’re done with the whole tournament. I feel like we did a pretty good job of that — managing the lows and celebrating the highs, but not celebrating too hard until the end.”