5 Chugiak-Eagle River hockey players help bring national title to Alaska

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 08:36
  • Jarett Beckett, Cullen McCormick, Olin Kelliher, Tyler Huffer, Tucker Lien with the Tier II 16U National Championship banner and trophy after defeating McKinney, Texas 4-3 in the title game Monday in Plano, Texas. (photo Todd Porter)
  • From left, Tyler Huffer, Tucker Lien, Cullen McCormick, Jarett Beckett pose with the National Championship trophy after beating the McKinney (TX) North Stars 4-3 Monday in the Tier II 16U national championship game. (photo Tia Kelliher)

No team traveled more miles to get to this year’s Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U National Championships in Plano, Texas than the Anchorage North Stars. They didn’t go all that way to lose.

Anchorage’s Hayden Fox slapped the puck into a wide-open net with just 51 seconds left to ice the team’s 4-3 win Monday over the McKinney (Texas) North Stars. The play was set up by Eagle River’s Tucker Lien, who took a breakout pass in the neutral zone and skated along the left side deep into the offensive end before slipping a pass to Fox just as the defense closed in.

North Stars head coach Matt Thompson told USAHockey.com he’s been harping on Lien to keep things simple all season.

“We try to get him to skate wide every once in a while and keep it simple. He finally keeps it simple, drives it wide and we got a guy (Fox) busting the net who’s been working his butt off all tournament, busting his butt to the net,” Thompson said. “(Fox) just found a back-door pass and put it home.”

This year’s team included five players from Chugiak-Eagle River, including Lien — who attends Eagle River High — along with Chugiak High skaters Tyler Huffer, Cullen McCormick and Jarett Beckett and goalie Olin Kelliher.

The 16U (or “Midget”) championship was the first national title at that division for an Alaska team since Scott Gomez and the Alaska All Stars won a Tier I national title in 1996 on a team coached by Eagle River’s Pete McEnaney.

McKinney looked like it might cruise to victory after getting goals from Cullen Hogan, Andrew Kungle and Christian Bachman in the first 10 minutes of the game. But Anchorage got a spark when Logan Orr scored to cut the lead to 3-1 heading into the first intermission.

After a scoreless second period, Fox cut further into the lead with a power-play goal off a Colten Gerken-Roberto assist. Gerken-Roberto then equalized with Orr assisting to set up Fox and Lien’s dramatic flourish.

The North Stars reached the title game by defeating the Maine Moose 5-1 in Sunday’s semifinals. Logan Orr and Colten Gerken-Roberto scored two goals each in the win for the North Stars, who also got a goal from Beckett and assists from McCormick, Spencer Lund, Trevor Monahan and Joshua Tyra.

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