Members of the ’07 Livonia Rockets hockey team can enjoy the rare distinction of being called “national champions” while still attending elementary school.
On March 8 in Eden Prairie, Minn., the Rockets overcame a 7-3 third-period deficit to defeat Minnesota Made Blue, 9-8, in overtime to capture the 2015 AAU North American Mites Championship.
The Addison Grizzlies from suburban Chicago earned the tournament’s bronze medal while Minnesota Made Red placed fourth to take home the copper medals.
The Rockets, who are coached by Jeff King (head coach), Kevin Yudt, Kris Johnson, Lee Brees, Bob Stroble and Chris Mitchell, earned a berth in the national championship tournament by winning last spring’s Michigan Amateur Youth Hockey League title with a 13-0-1 record.
The team finished the 2014-15 campaign with a 40-12 mark, with the bulk of its losses coming against older teams.
“The real story of this team is how it was able to come back from being down 7-3 in the third period of the championship game and eventually win in overtime,” said King. “We were down 8-6 with less than a minute to play in regulation and scored with 38 seconds left and 13 seconds left. It was pretty remarkable what these young kids were able to accomplish.”
The championship-clinching goal was scored by Jack Janda at the 3:30 mark of overtime.
“It was mass pandemonium when we scored the winning goal,” King recounted. “Everybody was piling on the goalie, the parents ran onto the ice; it was very cool.”
Although the Rockets – 11 of 14 of whom live in Livonia – are just second- and third-graders, their hockey skills are top-notch, said King.
“Some of these kids started skating when they were 2 years old and started playing hockey at 4 at the latest, so they’re all very good players,” he said.
King said most, if not all, of the Rockets play multiple sports, “which we strongly encourage.”
The MAYHL consists of teams mostly from the metropolitan Detroit area, however, there is one team based in Ohio, King said.