Following a 7-0 loss to the Alaska Blue Devils, coach Dave Regan only had praise for his Reston Raiders’ performance at the USA Hockey 2012 Tier II U-12 National Championships.
Rather than dwell on what went wrong against the eventual tournament champions, Regan noted his team — one of two hosts of the tournament — put up a fight against a superior opponent.
“Alaska beat us pretty good, but the score wasn’t indicative of how hard the team played,” he said. “The kids hung in there with a team that was one of the top ranked teams in the country. That’s not bad for a team from Virginia.”
For the past week in Reston and Ashburn, the Raiders have been putting Virginia’s hockey skills to the test against some of the nation’s elite U-12 teams.
A dozen teams — ranging from Vermont to Arizona — traveled to Reston to compete in the tournament last week.
The Raiders earned their trip to nationals by finishing as runner-up in the Virginia state championships. The Commonwealth’s other representative, the Ashburn Xtreme, were given an automatic qualification as one of the tournament hosts.
For Regan, the tournament presented a considerable challenge to his coaching staff.
Not only would his team be facing some of the best youth hockey talent the nation had to offer, but the team didn’t have any game film or scouting reports to work with prior to the games.
With such a lack of information, the Raiders decided to work on the basics to prepare for the tournament.
“Our game plan all season was to work on speed and skill,” Regan said. “We did a lot of five-on-five drills to help the kids work together and get the goalies ready.”
Those drills seemed to pay off in the tournament as the Raiders went 1-2, and were competitive in every game they played.
In the tournament’s first game against the Arizona Hockey Union, Peter Regan scored three goals to lead the Raiders to a 4-2 victory, with goalie Trent Pratt earning the win in net.
Other standouts from the tournament included Chad Constantine and Robert Holmberg, who each scored a goal. Aidan Wheeler, Chris Weiss, Jason Calem, Kevin Wang and Liam Kelly each tallied assists.
Reston’s remaining two games didn’t end with the result the team had wanted. Against the Crittenden South Burlington Hawks from Vermont, the Raiders lost, 5-2. The much-anticipated matchup with the team from Alaska proved to be the toughest game of the tournament.
“[Alaska was] a big, strong team,” Regan said. “That was easily the best team we have faced all year. They were fantastically well-rounded with speed and size.”
Despite the two losses, Reston ended up placing tied for fourth after pool play, but missed out on reaching the tournament’s elimination round because of to a tie breaker.
“We ended up with a win and two losses, but we tied for fourth,” Regan said. “We could have gone to the quarterfinals of the tournament, but the tie-breaker was head-to-head record and the team ahead of us [Vermont] had beaten us.”
Although the tournament run ended after three games, the players enjoyed more than a few games of hockey.
USA Hockey hosted an opening ceremonies parade before the tournament’s start, and between games the players from the visiting teams spent time interacting with each other.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Regan said. “And [the team] got to interact with the other kids. We got to take part in a parade and meet the other teams. I never got to do anything like this when I played youth hockey, so I’m the glad the [Raiders] could.”