The high powered NoVA Ice Dogs 16U UA boys team traveled to Richmond on February 23-24 to compete for the CBHL 2019 Championship. Fresh off a Can/Am tourney win in Montreal, Quebec during the previous weekend, the Dogs were confident and focused as they prepared to take on the CBHL's other top teams bound for the playoffs.
First up for the Ice Dogs in the semi-final game was the Frederick Freeze. The Ice Dogs knew this would be a tough contest having lost both regular season games to the Freeze. Determined to make things right, the Dogs came out with intensity, tallying first when Dean Jones snapped a quick shot from the point that was tipped by Joe Jafari. A short time later, Aiden O'Brien capped off a full ice rush beating the stunned net minder with a sizzling snipe over the right shoulder. It didn't end there. Luke Mattson calmly skated the puck in front of the net, picked his spot and shelved it -- 3-0 Ice Dogs after one period. The Freeze clawed their way back to close the gap to 3-2 at the end of two periods. The first half of the third period was a dog fight until O'Brien poked home his second of the night, putting the Ice Dogs up 4-2. In desperation mode, Frederick pulled their goalie with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game. Jack Cahill finally sealed the deal with a full-ice dagger right in the middle of the cage. The 5-2 win punched the Ice Dogs' ticket to the Sunday final.
The Ice Dogs knew the Championship game would not be a walk in the park. The Hagerstown Bulldogs, the CBHL's top regular season team, won the last head to head matchup in early January by stealing a win with just seconds remaining in the 3rd period, on our home ice in Mount Vernon. The loss left a bitter taste with the Dogs that they had no desire to experience again. The Ice Dogs were determined to avenge the loss and what better time to do it than the CBHL Championship game. Much like the semi-final game, the Dogs started off fast and struck first on a nifty 2-on-1 dish from O'Brien to Jake Guthrie who was driving hard to the net. After some exciting back and forth action throughout the first period by both teams, the Dogs broke through Hagerstown's tough defense yet again. This time it was Johnny Szczerban's back door sneak attack off a nice behind the back blind pass from Arthur Seng, leaving Szczerban standing free and clear to put the puck home -- 2-0 Ice Dog's after one period. The final two periods were constant battles in the trenches with some great scoring opportunities on both sides, each team fighting for their Championship lives. Thanks to some stingy team defense and stellar play by Ice Dog goaltender Lucas Hernandez, Hagerstown was unable to convert on any of their shots. With the scoreboard showing "Home: 0 and Visitors: 2" with 00:00 on the clock, gloves, sticks, helmets, and water bottles went flying and the NoVA 16U UA Ice Dogs were officially the 2019 16U UA CBHL Champions!