COLUMBUS, OHIO – For the first time in program history, the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets Under-16 team has captured the Mid American District title and advanced to the Tier I National Championships set to begin Wednesday, Apr. 1 in St. Louis, Mo. The appearance signifies the first Mid Am District Championship and first Nationals appearance by any Ohio AAA Blue Jackets team. Further, the U16 squad's appearance at Nationals is the first for any Tier I program from Columbus.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will recognize the U16 team's achievement by inviting the players to line up on the ice with the Blue Jackets during the national anthem prior to Sunday's 5 p.m. game against the St. Louis Blues.
"We're very proud to honor this exceptional group of young men who have proven that, after only a few short years, the Ohio AAA program can compete with the most elite in the country," said J.D. Kershaw, Director of Marketing and Fan Development for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Under the head coaching direction of Marty Laroche, the U16 team clinched a spot in the Nationals last weekend after recording District tournament victories over the Mahoning Valley Phantoms 6-1, Culver Academy 3-1 and the Pittsburgh Vipers 5-4 OT. The team then rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Cleveland Barons 3-2 in the deciding game.
The Ohio AAA Blue Jackets program consists of six teams playing in three age groups at the Tier 1 level, the highest level of youth hockey offered by USA Hockey. This is the program's third full season to offer a full Tier I AAA field of six teams and the fourth year for the U16 team. In its short history, the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets program has claimed three state titles and five Mid Am District finalist appearances.
The Ohio AAA Blue Jackets Tier 1 AAA program was formed in conjunction with the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association, Capital Amateur Hockey Association and Easton Youth Hockey Association to provide a first class Tier 1 AAA hockey program in Ohio focused on both player development and academic achievement.