Ferris, Stars capture U16 national title

The Southern Connecticut Youth Hockey Association (SCYH) Stars, including Greg Ferris of Shelton, had a magical run through the Tier II U16 AAA National Tournament recently in Troy, Mich.

Resolving a sensational 2012 season laden with accolades, including: the Connecticut Hockey Conference Midget Tier II tournament state championship, back-to-back championships in the highly-touted Labor Day Tier 1 Face-Off Classic tournament in Marlboro, Mass., a single season record of 29 wins, one loss and three ties, and a prestigious fourth-place national ranking, the Southern CT squad swept the field at U-16 National Championship tournament to win the Midget U16 AAA National Championship.

The Connecticut high school standouts, coached by Erik Roos and Rick Beckwith, soared through the field of state champions, emerging undefeated from round-robin round one, then disposing of quarter and semifinal opponents to earn a berth in the championship game, where they defeated the fifth-ranked St. Clare Shores (Mich.) Saints 4-1 to claim the title.

Southern went 6-0 in nationals, winning each contest by no fewer than three goals, and putting the puck in the net 31 times, to post a final season record of 35-1-3. In a fitting tip to the extraordinary Stars, myhockeyrankings.com saw clear to promote the Southern squad to the top rank in the country.

The Stars cruised through round-robin play, outscoring their opponents 16-6 and disposing of distinguished squads from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to advance undefeated to the national quarterfinals. Southern then faced the very talented top-ranked Ashbourne (Va.) Extreme team, who had also dominated the tournament’s round-one competition.

Ashbourne jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead just over a minute into the game. But, the Stars stuck to their game plan and scored five straight goals to win 6-3. Later that same day, Southern faced off against the second-ranked Falcons of Highland Park, Ill.

This was a hard-fought contest, but the resilient attack by the Stars proved too much for the Falcons to handle.

Thanks to 37 saves in the contest by stand-out Southern goaltender, Chris Gutierrez, the Stars claimed a 5-2 victory and earned a berth in the championship game.

In the final on Sunday, the Stars flew right out of the gate against Saint Clare Shores of Michigan. The relentless team attack continued, as Matty Horton capitalized on a scoring opportunity created by Adam Shea and Mike Falanga. The game went back-and-forth until midway through the second period, when Frank Sullivan scored an unassisted goal to give the Stars the energy to finish what they started.

Moments later, high-energy forward Falanga found the puck on his stick and buried his opportunity on Saints’ goaltender, Riley Morgan, which gave the Stars a commanding 3-0 lead heading into the third period.

Early in the third, the Stars found themselves in penalty trouble, but managed give up only a single goal thanks to the stellar play of Gutierrez, who came up with timely saves all tournament long.

Matt Wikman capped off the scoring with just over six minutes to go in the game, providing the final margin of 4-1. The Stars continued to force the puck low in the offensive zone and Saint Clare Shores did not have an answer.

After cruising the rest of the way through the third to seal the title, the Stars bring home to Milford the storied Southern Connecticut Youth Hockey program’s first-ever national championship.