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Jr. Ducks 18U and 16U AAA teams earn Nationals berths

By Chris Bayee, 02/27/22, 7:15PM PST


Both levels continue long streaks of Nationals appearances

The Jr. Ducks 18U AAA captured the Pacific District championship in a shootout.

The Jr. Ducks 16U AAA team earned a spot at the USA Hockey Youth Nationals for the fifth consecutive season the tournament has been held.

The Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U and 16U AAA teams each rallied to win  Pacific District championships on Sunday at a packed Great Park Ice to earn berths at the 2022 USA Hockey Youth Nationals at Rochester, Mich.

The 18U team won a shootout against the Northwest Stars to take a 2-1 decision. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Nationals will be held that the 18U level has qualified for the Tier 1 tournament. It marks the second season in a row the 18s had to win extra time to advance to Nationals.

Luke Baker and Rex Baron scored shootout goals for the Jr. Ducks, and goaltender Christian Nalle made more than 40 saves. 

The 18U team overcame a round-robin-opening shootout loss to the Stars to win the rest of its games in the tournament. In the opener, the Jr. Ducks rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score in the third period.

"One of this team's biggest strengths is its resiliency," coach August Aiken said. "The group had some players suffer serious injuries and miss a lot of time, but they battled. They have a no-quit attitude.

"Even in the championship game, the Stars came out flying and scored in the first five minutes, we had to weather a storm. I'm proud of the group for sticking together."

Ben Sherman scored the tying goal halfway through the third period for the 18s, who outscored their foes a cumulative 14-6 at Districts. 

The 16U team edged Team Alaska, 4-3, in the final to complete an undefeated weekend.

The 16s also had to rally as Alaska jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period and held a 3-2 lead in the third. Lukas McCloskey tied the score, and Christian Kim netted the game-winner with 1:45 left in regulation. Ethan Woolcott and Ty Henricks had drawn the Jr. Ducks to 2-2 earlier. 

"We were resilient in that last game," coach Alex Kim said. "I'm proud of this group. They handled adversity in that last game."

The championship game was a contrast to the 16Us' first four games, when they outscored opponents by a cumulative 40-2.

"We're playing good hockey at the right time," Kim added. "We're looking forward to Nationals. The amount of college coaches and junior scouts who will be there will provide our players with excellent exposure to higher levels of the sport."

The 16Us and 18Us had played in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League playoffs the previous weekend, and that also contributed to their preparedness going into Districts, both coaches said. 

The Jr. Ducks 14U team reached the semifinals, falling to the eventual district-champion California Golden Bears. 

Nationals will take place from March 30 to April 4.