Loes, Lawrence shine for SD team at national hockey tournamentAustin Loes and Spencer Lawrence got the opportunity to showcase their abilities against the best of the best last week on the East Coast.
By: Travis Mester, The Daily Republic
Austin Loes and Spencer Lawrence got the opportunity to showcase their abilities against the best of the best last week on the East Coast.
Loes, a junior at Mitchell High School, and Lawrence, a sophomore, played on Team South Dakota at the USA Hockey 16-and-under Tier II National Championship Tournament, which took place in Reston, Va., from Wednesday through Sunday.
The two, who star for the Mitchell Marlins boys’ hockey team during the season, flew to Washington, D.C., with a group of parent chaperones on March 29 for the tournament, which hosted all-star youth hockey teams from around the country.
“I’ve played in some pretty good tournaments in the offseason, but nothing like what we did last week,” Lawrence said. “Definitely the competition and the intensity were on another level.”
Team South Dakota — Loes and Lawrence in particular — seemed to fare just fine, though.
After going 2-1 in pool play, Team South Dakota won twice on Saturday before falling to the defending national champion North Dakota Starz in Sunday’s final.
“It was kind of funny, actually,” Loes said of playing North Dakota in the finals. “A lot people out there were calling it a battle of the Dakotas.
“We played them in scrimmage games and stuff throughout the year, so we knew a lot of the guys on the team.”
Team South Dakota fell 6-1 to Team North Dakota in the final.
Saturday was where the drama was for Loes and Lawrence.
In a quarterfinal against the DCYHA Golden Eagles from Utah, Team South Dakota trailed 4-2 late in the second period. But Loes scored two shorthanded goals in a 30-second span and Lawrence finished the game with three assists to get the team through to the semifinals.
“That was a big momentum change for the whole team, I think,” Loes said of his two shorthanded goals. “That was pretty exciting.”
On Saturday evening, Team South Dakota scored the game-winner — courtesy of Lawrence — with 56 seconds remaining to beat a team from Portland, Maine, 4-3. The same team had beaten Team South Dakota during the pool play.
Lawrence’s game-winner was assisted by Loes and Pierre’s Austin Wagner.
“The puck somehow got on my stick and I was able to get us into the championship game,” Lawrence said. “It was just pure adrenaline when it went in; that was probably the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”
On Wednesday, Team South Dakota beat the Louisiana IceGators 9-3 behind a goal and an assist from Loes, who led the team with eight points in the tournament.
On Thursday, Lawrence and Loes each had a goal and an assist to help the team beat a team from Arizona 4-1.
On Friday, Lawrence had an assist in a 4-2 loss to the team from Portland, Maine.
“Our team spread the scoring around and the Mitchell boys were a big part of it,” said Mike Lawrence, who is Spencer’s father and was one of the parents to escort the team to Washington, D.C. “It was a riot to watch all week long.”
Spencer Lawrence was tied for second on the team with seven points over the tournament’s six games. He said the team was selected after tryouts in Watertown last summer.
The tournament was a hotbed of youth hockey talent throughout the country and many scouts were in attendance, said Loes, who is 16 years old.
“The competition we played against was a lot better than we’re used to,” Loes said. “It’s the best of all the states.
“I got talked to by a guy that runs a prospect camp in Indiana that I’m going to go to. It’s an invite-only camp and only 130 people from around the country get invited.”
Loes will be attending the Junior Camp April 15-17 in a town just north of Indianapolis. The camp is for ages 16-20 and Loes said it will be a lot of scrimmaging in front of scouts.
“It’s just a big camp to show off your skills, so it should be exciting,” Loes said.
Lawrence, who is 15 years old, also hopes this past week can lead to new opportunities in hockey.
“Last week is definitely a stepping stone for moving on to a high level after high school,” Spencer Lawrence said.
Both players said they expect to play for the Marlins again next season.