Although none of the local entrants made it to the championship stage, the USA Hockey Boys Tier I Championships at Northtown Center ended with a story the Buffalo area can feel good about.
The Long Island Royals, coached by former Sabres star Pat LaFontaine and led by a talented high school junior from Buffalo, captured the 16-under championship Sunday with a 5-1 triumph over the Dallas Stars Elite in the final game.
Dallas scored first but Long Island answered with goals by Nicholas Hutchinson, Michael Marnell, Brent D'Iorio and two by Justin Bailey to take home the championship.
Bailey, a former Canisius High and St. Joe's student now living and attending school on Long Island while he plays for the Royals, also had an assist in the victory. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound forward led the Royals with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the tournament.
LaFontaine's team has been featured on an NHL Network production, "The Making of a Royal."
The Royals went 5-1 in the 16U tournament, losing only to the Los Angeles Junior Kings, 2-1, in pool play Friday. Long Island outscored its opponents by a combined 23-11 for the six games.
Three other Tier I age-group championships were decided Sunday at Northtown.
Shattuck St. Mary's (Minn.) won the 18-under title, edging the Los Angeles Junior Kings, 2-1. All the scoring came in the first period. Truman Reed and Zack Stepan, cousin of New York Ranger forward Derek Stepan, tallied for Shattuck.
Nikita Pavluchev's goal with 2:20 left in the second period broke a 2-2 tie and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Junior Knights went on to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues in the 14-under championship game. Daniel Sprong, who had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in the tournament added an empty-net goal to go along with his three assists for the Pennsylvania team.
Nicholas Nardella scored with 5:01 left in the first overtime to give Chicago Mission a 4-3 triumph over the New Jersey Colonials for the 12-under title.
The tournament, which opened Thursday at the Amherst facility, drew large and enthusiastic crowds all week according to organizers of the event. The four-rink Amherst facility has hosted a USA Hockey national tournament each year since 2006, but this was the first time as host of the four Tier I boys age-group divisions.