Team Illinois Takes First at National Championships

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Byline: Bryan rnes Daily Herald Correspondent

Team Illinois placed first in the Pee Wee division and second in Midget in the USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championships last weekend at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge.

The four-day tournament encompassed 28 teams in three divisions and concluded Sunday with the semifinals and finals.

Team Illinois Pee Wee Major (ages 12-13) overcame a 2-0 first-period deficit in the title game to defeat Troy Academy (N.Y.) 3-2.

Team Illinois Midget Major (ages 16-18) fell to the Alaska All-Stars 6-2 in the championship.

Team Illinois Bantam Major (ages 14-15), which is coached by former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Murray Bannerman, was eliminated Friday with a 5-3 loss to Long Island (N.Y.) Gulls - the eventual champion - and finished 2-2 in the tournament.

Chicago Young Americans Midget also bowed out at 2-2.

Here's a tournament summary of the three Team Illinois clubs and their area players.

Pee Wee Major

Team Illinois (62-24-7 overall) reached the finals with victories over the Northwest Admirals of Seattle (5-2); Valley Junior Warriors of Massachusetts (8-1); Southern Connecticut Stars (8-0); and, in the semifinals, Detroit Compuware Ambassadors (9-6).

In the finals, Team Illinois rallied to tie Troy 2-2 on second-period goals by Greg Ihnken and Steve Black. Ihnken scored the game winner at 9:53 of the third period.

"It took a period before we got the cobwebs out," said Team Illinois coach Tim Mueller. "That was the first time we were (trailing) in the tournament. We started to pick up some momentum in the second period."

Team Illinois' local connection included forwards Brock Lachapelle and Tim O'Shea from Barrington, defenseman Neil Wilson from Algonquin and forward Joseph Zurenko from Arlington Heights.

"We were in such an offensive mode the first three games. We're strong on the offensive end - that was probably the biggest key of the weekend. We've got some extremely strong guys on defense, and we've had strong goaltending all year.

"When we got in this tournament," Mueller said, "we played kids our own age and we showed what we were capable of doing. …