Five different teams represented the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Penguins Elite organization at the 2019 USA Hockey National Championships. After winning their respective MidAm tournaments, each team moved on to face the best of the best from around the country.
The 16U Boys team traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan and started the tournament strong with a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. After falling to the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes, the 16Us rebounded for a 5-1 win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies to advance from the group stage with a 2-1-0 record. After a shutout victory over the Cape Cod Whalers in the quarterfinals and a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues in the semi-final, the Pens found themselves in a matchup with Yale, a team that scored a total of 17 goals in their 2 playoff games. After Tyler Kennedy scored early in the first, Alex Servagno’s shorthanded tally in the second period proved to be the goal that not only won the game but also the National Championship for the 16U squad.
The 14U Girls returned home from Irvine, California as the second Pens Elite team to win the National Championship. After sweeping the group stage with wins over the Hartford Jr. Lady Wolfpack, San Jose Jr. Sharks and Chicago Mission, the girls shut out the Chicago Young Americans in the quarterfinal and then beat the Minnesota Green Giants 4-2 in the semi-final. After trailing 3-0 to Little Caesars in the third period of the championship game, the 14U girls mounted a furious comeback in the final frame to force overtime where Jaidan Fahrny eventually played the hero with the game-winning goal.
The 15U Boys team made the trip to Plymouth, Michigan and opened the group stage with a tough 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Rockets. In the next game, the Pens Elite squad trailed the Sioux Falls Power 1-0 after the first period but rattled off three straight goals in the second period to earn the 3 points. In the final group stage game, the 15Us needed a victory over Little Caesars to advance. After trailing 2-0 after two periods, Johnny Fratto finally got the Penguins on the board in the third period but the rally fell short as Little Caesars hung on for the 2-1 win. With the loss, the 15U Pens Elite team was eliminated in the group stage with a 1-2-0 record.
The 14U Boys team didn’t have to travel far as the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, their own home rink, played host to their National Championship tournament. After dropping the opener to Chicago Mission 4-1, the team rebounded for a huge 8-2 win over the Anchorage North Stars and an important 5-3 win over Shattuck St. Mary’s. The tiebreakers were in the Pens’ favor as they advance from a group that featured a three way tie for first place. In the quarterfinal, the Pens Elite team beat a Honeybaked team that was ranked 3rd nationally by a score line of 5-1. In the semi-final, the 14U’s lost a hard fought game to the eventual champions, Little Caesars by a score of 3-1 with an empty net goal.
The 16U Girls team also traveled to Irvine, California and advanced from the group stage with a 2-1-0 record thanks to victories over the Connecticut Polar Bears (3-0) and Shattuck St. Mary’s (2-1) and in spite of their 3-0 loss to the Buffalo Regals. In the quarterfinal, despite leading in the third period against Selects Academy, the 16U girls lost a heartbreaker by a score of 4-3.
Congrats to all of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite teams on their great seasons and their phenomenal performances at the National Championships!