Monday, January 5, 2009

Ontario wins U-17 Challenge


PORT ALBERNI, BC – For the second year in a row, Ontario is champion of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Jeff Skinner scored the game-winning goal early in the second period as Ontario defeated Pacific 5-1 in the gold medal game on Sunday night at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. It is the first repeat champion since the United States in 2001 and 2002.

Two nights after meeting in the round-robin finale the Canadian sides met again, with the top prize on the line. Just as it was on Friday, it was Ontario who came out victorious.

After Pacific had controlled much of the play in the first 19 minutes – it had four power plays to just one for Ontario – Tyler Seguin got the defending champs on the board first with a solo effort late in the first period, picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone and beating Pacific netminder Kent Simpson with a backhand under the crossbar.

The goal seemed to spark Ontario in the opening minutes of the second period, as Skinner swung around the net and slipped the puck under Simpson to double the lead.

Justin Feser cut the lead in half in the final minute of the middle frame, converting a pass from Ryan Harrison on a Pacific power play.

But instead of using the momentum entering the final 20 minutes, Pacific found itself down by a pair once again as John McFarland cut in off the left wing and slid a shot between the legs of Simpson, deflating the Pacific bench and the capacity pro-Pacific crowd at the Multiplex.

Steven Shipley and Erik Gudbranson rounded out the scoring with a pair of late goals as Ontario celebrated its seventh U17 gold medal, joining titles in 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2004 and 2008. It has also won 15 consecutive games at the tournament, dating back to 2006.

Pacific lost the gold medal game for the fifth time in seven tournaments. It took home second place in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005.

McFarland finished tied for the tournament lead with eight goals and led with 12 points, one ahead of Seguin, who had a tournament-leading eight assists.

McFarland and goaltender JP Anderson were both named to the tournament all-star team, which was announced following the semifinals on Saturday. Joining them were forwards Guillaume Asselin (Quebec) and Brandon Saad (United States) and defencemen Adam Clendining (United States) and Brandon Gormley (Atlantic).


PORT ALBERNI, BC – For the fifth time in the last seven tournaments, the United States will take a medal home from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Jacob Fallon had a hat trick and Shane Sooth added a trio of assists as the Americans claimed the bronze medal with a 4-2 victory over West on Sunday afternoon at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. It is the first ever bronze for the U.S. at the U17 tournament, joining two golds (2001, 2002) and four silvers (1994, 1998, 2006, 2008).

Stuart Higgins also scored for the United States, which took to the ice less than 15 hours after its emotion-draining overtime loss to Pacific in the semifinals. The U.S. led 4-0 after 40 minutes on its way to the bronze.

Quinton Howden had both goals for West, scoring twice in the first four minutes of the third period to give the Canadian side life. Michael St. Croix and captain Jordan De Pape picked up assists on both of Howden’s goals.

West played in the bronze medal game for the second consecutive year – after winning the third-place game last year in London, ON, it finished fourth for the first time since 2001. The Westerners remain at two medals all-time (G-1995, B-2008).

(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at

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