Grady Schaefer of the Western Selects scores in overtime to lift his team to victory over the B.C. Jr. Canucks.
The final day of round robin play caused anxiety, chewed fingernails, and peptic ulcers down the last seconds.
Team Minnesota, which entered Friday needing to win both its games to advance to the playoff round, did so with excruciating victories over the Boston Junior Bruins and Team Quebec.
The Minnesotans scored three times in the third period to pull away from Boston in a 4-1 win, paced by Nolan Fitzhenry’s pair of tallies and Cade Nystrom’s 23 saves on 24 shots. Goaltending would play an important role again in Minnesota’s late-night thriller, as Mark Djomo stopped 22 shots in addition to the overtime heroics of Jakko Wycisk. Wycisk rushed the length of the ice during the two-on-two second overtime, went outside-in on a defender, and whipped a shot past the Team Quebec netminder to send Team Minnesota to Saturday.
Joining Team Minnesota in the playoff round from the Styles Conference will be No. 2 seed Toronto Pro Hockey, which locked up its seed with a resounding 8-1 win over Team Pennsylvania. Tyler Lee and Gensen Geldart each recorded three points in the win, Lee with two goals and an assist and Geldart with three helpers. Toronto Pro Hockey takes a record of 5-0-1 into the playoffs, with its lone loss coming in overtime against the top seed in the Styles Conference, Team Brick Alberta. Team Brick earns a first-round bye with its spotless 6-0 mark.
The Wigston Conference also experienced a late addition to the playoff picture, as the Western Selects clinched their spot with an overtime win over the B.C. Jr. Canucks. Grady Schaefer netted the game-tying goal, and the game-winner for the Western Selects on Friday, one day after the squad pulled off another overtime win on Thursday against the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks. The win over the Jr. Blackhawks proved critical as a head-to-head tiebreaker to the Western Selects advancing, as the two teams are technically tied the standings with 10 total points.
The Toronto Bulldogs continue the trend of Toronto-based teams as No. 2 seeds, taking the second seed with a 6-2 win over the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks, powered by a hat-trick from Kingston Harris and three assists from Carter Lewandowski. Owning the first seed are the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, who edged Team Manitoba in the first game on Friday 3-1 to finish the round robin portion of the tourney with six wins in six games, all in regulation.
The Jr. Rangers are the last United States team to have won the Brick Invitational, capturing the title in 2002.