Three prep school players from Western New York came back to the rink where they first learned to skate and played important roles in the Connecticut Wolf Pack’s USA Hockey Tier I 18U championship, which wrapped up Monday at Amherst Northtown Center.
Ben Sharf of East Amherst scored a goal, and Eric Benshadle of Getzville had an assist in the 5-4 overtime victory over the New Jersey Avalanche in the championship game. Sharf and Benshadle both attend Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn.
The third Western New Yorker, Jake Smith of Clarence, is a Nichols graduate who is spending a year of post-graduate school at Choate Rosemary Hall School in Wallingford, Conn.
Benshadle had a pair of goals for Connecticut in a 4-1 victory over Minnesota power Shattuck St. Mary’s in the 18U semifinal.
Doug Messier, father of former NHL star Mark Messier, and Scott Robson coached the Connecticut team.
Most of the Wolf Pack players played prep school hockey during the winter season, then came together for the nationals last month. Vimal Sukumaran, who comes from Quebec and attends Salisbury (Conn.) School, scored the championship goal for the Wolf Pack with 20.4 seconds left in overtime.
In Lansing, Mich., the Amherst Knights girls 14U team controlled play most of the game but lost the championship game to Assabet Red of Massachusetts, 2-1, on a short-handed goal by Katie Puumala, just one minute into overtime. Jenn Lukomski had 15 saves for Amherst, coached by John Gaffney.
Kaylee Conover scored a power play goal assisted by Audrey Lazar in the second period to give Amherst the lead before Puumala tied it with 4:55 left in regulation. “This team is what I call a legitimate homegrown team,” Gaffney said. “We don’t have a regional play or affiliation. All these girls go to school together, play school hockey together and they stay together.”