Eight youth hockey teams to converge on Potsdam this weekend for state championships
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 6:25 am

POTSDAM – Eight teams from across New York will meet at Clarkson University’s Cheel Arena this weekend as the U16 Tier II Hockey State Championships are held there March 16 to 18.

While most Clarkson students will vacate the campus for their spring break beginning that weekend, the players, their families and fans will stream into the Potsdam area for the tournament.

St. Lawrence Thunder is host team. They and the Long Island Rebels, Nassau County Lions, Cheektowaga Warriors, Monroe County Eagles, Clifton Park Dynamo, Syracuse Blazers and the Westchester Vipers will play a total of 15 games in three days to decide the state championship.

The winner of the state title represents New York at 2012 U16 Tier II USA Hockey National Championships in April in Green Bay, Wisc.

The Thunder plays Friday at 3 p.m. against Cheektowaga; Saturday at 8 a.m. against Nassau County and again at 6 p.m. against Syracuse. Winners from two brackets will cross over and play the semi-finals on Sunday, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m.

Admission is free for fans the entire weekend.

There is reportedly still room in the program and tournament packets for local advertising.

“There will be nearly 160 families coming to our area and we want to profile the uniqueness of the region, including our colleges, specialty shops, great dining options, and artisan attractions,” says Courtney Woods, member of the planning group. “We have an opportunity to show people what there is to love about the area, particularly since we are hosting more than 150 prospective college-bound students and their families, who might want to return to the area for secondary education or a future vacation,” she added.

St. Lawrence Thunder is supported by the Massena Minor Hockey Association and is coached by Josh Bartell and assisted by Reggie McDonald. Although host teams get an automatic bid to the state finals, the Thunder earned its right to represent the Northern Zone as a second seed after being inched out of first seed rankings by the Clifton Park Dynamo during sectional play-offs in October.

Some of the players on this North Country team have represented the St. Lawrence Thunder in national championships for the last two years, playing as Bantams in Wayne, New Jersey in 2010 and as Midgets last year in Reston, Virginia. Both years the teams delivered respectable showings amidst some of the top talent and most challenging match-ups in the nation.

“This year’s U16 team has great depth in talent,” says Bartell.

“Most importantly, they play really well as a cohesive team,” he said.

“We encourage fans of hockey to come out and support our St. Lawrence Thunder team. There will be some really great hockey played at Cheel this weekend,” he said.