Hampton sophomore skates to national hockey championship
Saturday, April 23, 2022 | 9:01 AM
Hampton sophomore Sean Sullivan felt a range of emotions after the Steel City Ice Renegades won a 2022 USA Hockey 16U national championship earlier this month.
“It was crazy,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Sullivan was part of the Harmarville-based travel team that topped the Chicago Hawks, 2-0, in the national title game April 4 to win the 16-team Tier II 3A division in Troy, Mich.
The Renegades went 5-1 at nationals, defeating teams from Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Jersey and Illinois along the way. They stayed alive by erasing a 4-2 third-period deficit in a 6-5 victory over the Montclair (N.J.) Blues in the semifinals.
“I knew we could do it,” Sullivan said. “I think we were the best team there.”
The Penguins honored the Renegades during their playoff-clinching 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders on April 14 at PPG Paints Arena.
Renegades forward George Acklin’s father, Kevin, is the chief operating officer for Penguins and secured the players and their parents a party suite for the NHL game. The Renegades were recognized on the arena video board, and they were visited in the suite by Mario Lemieux, who came in and took photos with the players, and Bryan Trottier, who passed around one of his Stanley Cup rings for the boys to see.
“It was a great celebration,” Renegades coach Pat Martin said.
The festivities capped a remarkable April for the 16-year-old Sullivan, who had 13 goals and four assists for the Hampton high school team (7-13) this past winter. A right wing for the Renegades, Sullivan finished with one goal and one assist at nationals, highlighted by a nifty back-hander in a 4-0 victory over the Littleton (Colo.) Hawks on April 3.
“It was a very exciting goal,” Sullivan said. “It was one of my favorite goals to score because it was a pretty one.”
Martin called the goal “amazing.”
“He’s certainly one kid that’s capable of that,” Martin said. “When he scores, it’s usually pretty spectacular. He walked around two guys and made them look absolutely foolish and then pulled it around the goalie and slipped it in an open net.
“He beats the first guy, and the bench is screaming. Then he beats the second guy, and the bench is screaming even more. Then when he puts it in the net, the bench is going crazy. He really picked the team up.”
Martin has coached Sullivan for the Renegades since the Hampton teen was about 6 years old. He said Sullivan, who played on a line at nationals with center Chase Kushner (Greensburg Salem) and left wing RJ Kelly (Franklin Regional), is “probably our most athletic kid.”
“He’s been with me a long time, and to be honest with you, it was pretty clear at a young age that Sean just had a different level of athletic ability,” Martin said. “He’s a rare combination of speed, power and explosiveness. He really gives you a physical presence out there. … And he’s also probably got the hardest shot on the team. He does a lot.”
The Renegades, who defeated the Allegheny Badgers to win the Mid-Am District in March and qualify for nationals, went 57-8-6 this season. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Sullivan contributed 18 goals and seven assists, according to the team’s video stat service.
The 2022 title came two years after the then-14U team qualified for nationals but didn’t get to play because the pandemic wiped out the event. They failed last season to reach nationals.
“That was very disappointing,” Sullivan said of the 2020 cancellation. “We were really just so pumped up to play, and it got canceled. We were all really mad and upset. That’s why the next two years we tried so hard, and we wanted it so bad.”
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