A ground-breaking season for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks Tier I program only continues to get better after the club’s Bantam AAA and Midget 16U AAA teams won titles at the Pacific District Championships over the weekend at San Jose.
It marks the first time the Jr. Ducks have ever had two teams qualify in the same season for the Tier I USA Hockey National Championships, which this year will be held in Amherst, N.Y., on March 26-30. Last month, the Jr. Ducks had three teams win CAHA State Tier I titles in the same weekend for the first time.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Lady Ducks’ 14U AAA team also won a Pacific District title at San Jose and will be joined at Nationals by the 19U AAA team, which received an automatic bid. Tier I Nationals are old hat for the Lady Ducks, who now have had 25 teams qualify for them since 2005. This will be the third time a Lady Ducks 19U team has qualified, and it will be the eighth trip for a Lady Ducks 14U team. Both teams will compete in Green Bay, Wis., on March 26-30.
The Jr. Ducks Bantam team edged the rival Los Angeles Jr. Kings, 3-2, in Sunday’s championship game. The Bantams, coached by Sandy Gasseau and assisted by Pat Angeles, had gone 3-0 in round-robin play and outscored opponents 17-3. Two third-period goals – 1:44 apart – by Jiyoon Chae gave the Jr. Ducks the victory in the final. Jonah Gold, the division’s leading scorer at Districts with five goals and six points, scored in the first period for the Jr. Ducks.
Chae and Tae Lee each had five points in the tournament. Goalies Tomas Leet and Jordan Eisenmann each won two games and finished with the top two save percentages in the division, .937 and .931, respectively. The teams had met for the CAHA State championship last month, with the Jr. Ducks also winning that matchup.
The Midget 16U team, coached by Alex Kim and assisted by David Walker and Raymond Woo, defeated the Everett Jr. Silvertips, 6-2, for the championship. Defenseman Chad Sasaki had a goal and two assists, and Jack Sitzman and Justin Dixson each added a goal and an assist in the final.
After rolling through three round-robin games, outscoring foes 15-1 in the process, the Jr. Ducks knocked off the Alaska Oilers, 4-1, in the semifinals. Jack Gates, Sitzman, Andre Ghantous and Patrick Choi scored. Dixson led the division with 10 points, while Sitzman had eight and Gates and Paul Selleck chipped in six apiece. Alexander Frosh led the division with a .33 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage, while Timothy Huxen’s 1.33 goals-against average was the division’s second-best. The CAHA champion 16s went 19-0-2 in CAHA regular-season games and went 19-1 to finish first in the regular season of the North American Prospects Hockey League.
The LDs’ 14Us, coached by Scott Shand and assisted by Guy Labbe and Danielle Ramirez, swept the San Jose Jr. Sharks in two games, with Savannah Gutierrez and Maddie Morgan each earning a shutout in net. Gutierrez made 25 saves in the first game and Lily Yovetich scoring the only goal. In the second game, a 3-0 victory, Morgan stopped 28 shots while Lindsay Reyes, Marissa Gebauer and Yovetich scored goals.
There is the potential for the four Tier I Nationals qualifiers to be joined by two more Jr. Ducks teams at the Tier II Nationals. The program has Midget 16U and 18U teams competing in next weekend’s CAHA Tier II State Playoffs at Escondido with more Nationals berths on the line.
Additionally, two members of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League – CAHA champion Orange Lutheran and runner-up Santa Margarita – will compete at Nationals in St. Louis, Mo., on March 19-23.
So the Ducks family could be represented by as many as eight teams at Nationals, where the program could add more chapters to its success stories this season.