It may not be quite on par with the famous “Miracle on Ice” story from 1980, but something fairly magical happened recently for a group of hockey players.
And now they’re taking their story to the national stage.
Thanks to an almost improbable two-game sweep over the Green Bay Bobcats in the Wisconsin Tier II Championship, the Kenosha Komets U18 hockey team punched its ticket to the USA Hockey Tier II National Championship next month in San Jose, Calif.
The national appearance is the first time the Komets — or any team from the Kenosha Youth Hockey organization for that matter — has advanced this far.
“It’s pretty cool,” Komets coach Jason Myers said. “I have a group of kids who have been together for a while and have worked hard over the last four or five seasons. We’re all super excited.
“I don’t think it has ever been in anybody’s thought process that we could achieve something like this. We’re kind of a smaller club, stuck in the southeast corner of the state. We’re in a weird dynamic because we’re so close to Illinois that we sometimes get bunched in with Illinois teams. Wisconsin kind of forgets about us a little bit. It’s a huge honor.”
The Komets’ roster includes players from Illinois, along with a majority from the surrounding Kenosha County communities, Myers said. The roster includes two high school graduates, eight seniors and the rest are high school juniors.
And what has helped this run, Myers said, is that many of his current players have been teammates through the ranks of the hockey association.
That familiarity helps bond the entire team, he said.
“There’s a nucleus of probably six or seven kids who have been together since they were 9 or 10 years old,” Myers said. “Then we’ve had some supporting cast come in along the way.
“There is a tight bond. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. You love each other like family, but you fight like family, too. Hockey is a little bit of a unique sport. We’re on the road quite a bit. ... There’s a lot of time that these guys spend together by themselves navigating life together a little bit.”
As for the season itself, Myers admitted that his team had some bumps in the road and heads into the national tournament hovering around the .500 mark.
A tough start to the year had a lot to do with that, but the Komets have hit their stride — at exactly the right time.
“We put ourselves behind the ‘eight ball’ early,” he said. “We hit our stride midseason and really started scratching to get back to .500 and stringing some wins together.”
The Komets’ victim in the state title series, the Bobcats, had two wins and two ties with Kenosha prior to last weekend.
Kenosha beat the Bobcats, 2-1, in the first game last weekend, followed by a 5-1 victory to clinch its national trip. Myers credited his goalie, Carter Deinhammer, for a solid effort in the hard-fought, opening-game victory.
“We got our first two wins when it mattered,” Myers said.
Myers said there was more than one surprised person in the arena last weekend.
“We weren’t the favorite going in, that’s for sure,” he said. “Even the (tournament organizers), I think they were as surprised as anybody. I almost felt like they didn’t know what to say. They weren’t expecting to give us the trophy, so it was kind of awkward. We were obviously super pumped as well. It was fun.
“It’s always easier in my opinion to be in that underdog position and not having anything to lose.”
Other leaders this season along with Deinhammer include Shaw Johnson, David Daavettila, Luke Shurtleff, Trent Kmiec, Chase Erickson, Cole Niemi and Logan Albright.
The rest of the Komets’ roster includes Charles Provo, Kevin Keating, Troy Cummings, Elijah Fairbanks, Dominic Hollister, Kyle Christian, Alex Limon, Anthony Moreno, Ryan Myers and Easton Williams.
Myers is assisted by Brian Daavettila, Ted Poulos and Charles Marcoe.
Everybody had a hand in getting the Komets to this point, Myers said.
“It was truly a team effort,” he said.
The tournament doesn’t begin until April 3, and not every spot in the field has been filled, but the Komets are already starting to put some thoughts together on their goal for the trip.
And Myers is quite confident his team, which will again be an underdog, can make plenty of noise when it hits the West Coast.
Some of the qualifiers have faced the Komets or the two have common opponents, so Myers and his team aren’t heading there completely in the dark, which should help, he said.
“If we play the way we played that second game that won us the state championship, I like our chances,” he said. “We can play with any of them. It won’t be easy by any means.
“We might be the lowest ranked team in the tournament nationally. We’re ranked in the low 70s out of about 400 teams, give or take. It all depends on who shows up. ... I’ve done my best to give them all the opportunity I can give them. Now it’s kind of up to them.”
And who knows? Maybe by the time they finish in California, they’ll have their own Hollywood script in hand.