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Jr. Ducks 18U AA Team Earns Nationals Berth; 2 Teams Win SCAHA Titles

By Chris Bayee, 03/17/24, 6:00PM PDT


The Jr. Ducks 12U A-2 and Lady Ducks 10U B teams capture SCAHA championships. 

The Jr. Ducks 18U AA team continued to overcome and the result Sunday was earning a berth to the USA Hockey Youth Nationals.

The 18U's edged the San Diego Saints, 3-1, at Great Park ICE and Five Point Arena to become the fourth team from the club to earn a Nationals berth, joining the 14U and 18U AAA teams and the Lady Ducks 16U AAA team. The 18U AA team will compete at Nationals in Delmont, Penn., on April 3-7. 

Meanwhile, the Lady Ducks 10U A and Jr. Ducks 12U A-2 teams captured SCAHA championships at Anaheim ICE.

18U AA Team Shows Resilience

The Nationals berth represented a breakthrough for the 18U AA group, many of whom lost in CAHA championship games the past two seasons. 

"We were right there at 16AA two years and 18AA last year and lost in the championship game by a goal both times," coach Jeff Noviello said. "This year, it came down to the team culture coming together at the right time.

"We had a lot of ups and downs, good weekends and bad weekends, but we knew we were a good team."

A majority of the team is high school seniors.

"Eight kids have been with me for all three years," Noviello said. "It was weighty to help them get a championship."

The victory in the final came against the sixth-seeded Saints. 

"They were the underdogs, but you couldn't underestimate them," Noviello said. "We controlled the pace of the game, but it was a one-goal game for some time."

Goaltender Olivier Caballero allowed only one goal in three of the five games.

The Jr. Ducks overcame a loss to the Bulls in its first round-robin game to win its next two, 4-1 over Empire and 4-3 over the GSE Eagles.

"The first game was an eye-opener because it's hard to mimic game pace in practice," Noviello said. "We didn't have enough competitive hockey down the stretch. We were down four players and had guys playing with people they weren't used to.

"The second game, we just came at them. Their energy was high at the start, leveled out then tailed off. We kept it up; we were on a mission. Same thing against the Eagles, who were the No. 1 seed."

The Jr. Ducks then defeated the Jr. Kings 3-1 in a semifinal after surviving a crazy first five minutes. The Kings scored 10 seconds in, the Ducks evened it on a short-handed goal, then watched Caballero stop a penalty shot. 

Despite finishing with only one loss in CAHA play, the 18U AA's finished fourth in the regular-season standings, behind GSE, Empire and the Bulls due to having four ties. 

This marks Noviello's fourth time guiding a AA team to Nationals plus he assisted David Walker on the 15U AAA team that qualified in 2020, only to see Covid wipe out the tournament.

Three other Jr. Ducks teams also competed at the Tier II States — 12U AA-1, 14U AA-2 and 16U AA-1. 

Lady Ducks 10U B Adds Another Banner

At 10U B, the Lady Ducks 10U A team defeated the Jr. Ducks, 8-2. The LDs, who earlier this season won an International Silver Stick title, also rolled in their semifinal last weekend, routing the Flyers, 7-0. 

"We are working hard and we play as a team, it's as simple as that," coach Vicky Wang said. "This group of girls and their families are very supportive. They put in a lot of effort to keep getting better and better from the start of the season."

Sunday's triumph capped a season in which the LDs went 15-0-1 in SCAHA play and won the regular-season title. The Jr. Ducks finished fourth before winning their semifinal, 9-6, over SDIA.

Half of Wang's team is second-year 10U's, which helped her younger players. Regardless, her approach is the same it's been in her 24 years of coaching.

"I really focus on skill development," she said. "Technique is very important. We play as a team, that's the difference. We pass the puck well. The girls know where the back door is, what D-to-D passing is; all the things they'll need to know at every level.

"We don't have superstars to carry our team, we are strong as a whole unit," Wang added. "The girls know their positioning. We've had so many years of success because we play hard, but smart, hockey."

If Wang's team wins at San Jose next weekend, it will be the first Lady Ducks team to win a 10U CAHA title. 

12U A-2 Team Raises A Banner, Too

At 12U A, the Jr. Ducks A-2 team defeated Empire Hockey Club, 6-1, in the championship game. The A-2 team finished tied for third with the club's A-1 team during the regular season before going on its playoff run. 

The Jr. Ducks 14U A-2 lost a hard-fought final to SDIA-1, 4-2. The 14U 's had shut out the Ice Hawks, 4-0, in a semifinal last weekend after finishing in fourth place during the regular season. 

All four A/B teams earned spots in next weekend's CAHA State championships at San Jose.