Hampton sophomore skates at National Hockey Championship
Saturday April 23, 2022 | 9:01
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 squad that outscored the Chicago Hawks, 2-0, in the April 4 national title game to win the 16-team Tier II 3A division in Troy, Michigan.
The Renegades went 5-1 at nationals, beating teams from Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Jersey and Illinois along the way. They stayed alive by overcoming a 4-2 third period deficit in a 6-5 victory over the Montclair Blues (NJ) in the semi-finals.
“I knew we could do it,” Sullivan said. “I think we were the best team there.”
The Penguins honored the Renegades in their 6-3 playoff win over the New York Islanders on April 14 at PPG Paints Arena.
Renegades forward George Acklin’s father, Kevin, is the Penguins’ chief operating officer and provided the players and their parents with a celebratory aftermath for the NHL game. The Renegades were recognized on the arena’s video board, and they were visited in the suite by Mario Lemieux, who walked in and took pictures with the players, and Bryan Trottier, who passed around one of his rings Stanley Cup so the boys can see it.
“It was a big party,” Renegades coach Pat Martin said.
The festivities capped a remarkable April for 16-year-old Sullivan, who had 13 goals and four assists for the Hampton High School team (7-13) last winter. A right-winger for the Renegades, Sullivan finished with a goal and an assist at the nationals, highlighted by a nifty backhand in a 4-0 win 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 “incredible”.
“He’s definitely a kid who’s capable of that,” Martin said. “When he scores, it’s usually quite spectacular. He walked around two guys and made them look like jerks, then he pulled him around the goalkeeper and slid him into an open net.
“He beats the first guy and the bench is screaming. Then he beats the second guy, and the bench screams some more. Then when he puts it in the net, the bench goes crazy. He really picked up the team.
Martin has coached Sullivan for the Renegades since the Hampton teenager was around 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 for 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. “It’s a rare combination of speed, power and explosiveness. It really gives you a physical presence there. … And he also probably has the toughest shot on the team. It makes a lot.
The Renegades, who defeated the Allegheny Badgers to win the Mid-Am District in March and qualify for the national championships, are 57-8-6 this season. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Sullivan contributed 18 goals and seven assists, according to the team’s video stats service.
The 2022 title came two years after the then 14-year-old team qualified for the national championships but were unable to play as the pandemic wiped out the event. They failed last season to reach the national championships.
“It was very disappointing,” Sullivan said of the 2020 cancellation. “We were just so excited to play, and it got canceled. We were all really angry and upset. That’s why the next two years we tried so hard and wanted it so badly.