Freezing out the competition
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The Allen Eagles Ice Hockey Club kept their season alive with a 5-0 beatdown of Southlake Carroll in the Pure Division High School State Championship on Jan. 29, marking the program’s first state championship in 10 years and punching the team’s ticket for the National Tournament that begins on March 29 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“[Winning state] feels surreal,” junior Will Gongos said. “[At the beginning of the season] I didn’t think we would make it to state, so it was kind of surprising to win the championship. It was pretty cool to share that experience with guys that I’ve been playing hockey with since middle school or even longer than that.”
The team started the game out hot, with Gongos scoring the first goal just two minutes into the first period. Freshman Robert Bernier added to the Eagles lead by scoring another goal late in the first period, and junior Ryan Casey scored a goal in the second period.
“Everything comes down to work ethic, and we started off the game working hard and shooting a lot of pucks at the net,” head coach Jason Deitsch said. “When you shoot a lot and you work hard, you’re going to score some goals.”
The Eagles finished off the game with two goals from junior Jordan Almeida in the third period. Sophomore goalie Cole Canning had a perfect performance in the game, with 25 saves and no goals allowed in his 51 minutes of play.
“It was good to do something for the school, under the name of Allen,” Almeida said. “It was the most important part of the season, and the entire team really stepped up. We wanted to put everything into it and play with no regrets.”
The USA Hockey’s national tournament brings the best team from each state to compete for the national title. The last time a team from Texas made it to the national championship was in 2011 when Southlake Carroll lost in the finals. Six out of the last seven national champions have come from states north of Oklahoma.
“We’re definitely underdogs,” Almeida said. “Everybody looks at Texas teams as, you know, Texas teams, not hockey teams. Our team believes that we are actual contenders, so we’re taking everything that we do very seriously.”
Although the team may not have history on their side, they do have experience. Several players have competed in tournaments across the nation, and Deitsch played minor league hockey for 17 years and served as the captain of the Allen Americans during his final season as a player.
“[Deitsch is] a great coach,” junior Preston Ford said. “He knows how to keep us all focused, and he knows the game really well. He lets us have fun, but at the same time we work hard. All the guys are working a little harder trying to prepare because the competition’s going to be harder playing the northern teams.”
The national tournament may be over a month away, but Deitsch knows the team will be ready and has one objective on its mind.
“The ultimate goal is to go win a national championship. If everyone just chips in and does their part, I think we have some players and I think we can go up there and win a couple games,” he said.