The NorCal Extreme 12U boys’ hockey team put on a show at the AAU Junior Olympics in Huntington Beach, July 7-21.
Like the entire Extreme organization, the 12U team is composed mainly of a few kids who have been playing together for as long as they can remember. In total, the organization consists of 24 players in five different levels, some playing multiple levels at once.
The Extreme’s only gold-medal team, the 12U’s, struggled at times throughout the season, sometimes playing with barely more than the minimum number of players. With their performance at the Junior Olympics, these young hockey players showed that they can play with larger teams from all over the world.
In their four round-robin games, the Extreme 12U team went undefeated with dominant wins over Great Britain, SoCal Puckhogs, San Jose Tsunami and Huntington Beach Birds. In total, they netted 27 goals in those four games to reward the defense that helped a strong goalie Max Muller, who allowed only five goals.
Next came the quarterfinal, which consisted of Extreme thoroughly routing the Delta River Rats, a familiar league foe, by a margin of 7-2.
Subsequently, Extreme took care of business against a strong Alberta, Canada, team with a 6-1 final score. The team was led through this game by Muller’s strong play in net.
In the final against an unfamiliar adversary in Team Hong Kong, The Extreme rode a great all-around game to a 4-3 lead late in the match.
When Hong Kong earned a power play with only 1:35 left in the game, Extreme knew they had to leave it all out on the rink to capture their club’s only gold medal. After Sam Blakewell, Brandon Pacciorini, Jack Shields and Muller had held off the Hong Kong attack for their first five shots, a Hong Kong player was open with what was sure to be the game-tying shot on net when Pacciorini dove in front of the play and took the shot, sealing the win with two seconds left on the clock.
While many teams consistently leaned on one or two main scoring threats, the 12U team’s attack came from all angles, with Jake Kirby netting 13 goals to go with his three assists, and Brooke Bryant tallying 11 and four. Defensemen Sam Blakewell had 10 and four, and Pacciorini was three with 11. Nick Blakewell had three goals and nine assists, while Cole Skoog finished four times.
Running many of the plays was Shields, who dished out seven assists over the course of the tournament. Muller was the breakout star of the international tournament, however, finishing the seven games with a 91 percent save rating.