KALISPELL -- Nearly every sporting event across every league in the world has been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. However, we've been honoring those teams that just got to finish their seasons before their facilities were closed, and they weren't that many.
Basketball, across all classes, was canceled before the state championship games were played. Softball, track and field, tennis and swimming are postponed until at least April 24, when another decision will be made by the Montana High School Association.
However, one 14-and-under hockey team in the Flathead Valley won its first state title in that division in program history, and it may have been one of the last games played in the state or even the nation.
On March 15, the Flathead Fusion and Bozeman Icedogs faced off in the Montana Amateur Hockey Association's 14-and-under Montana Bantam B state championship game.
After a heated battle with Gallatin in the semifinal game, Flathead was on a mission to take home first. Just less than four minutes into the game, the Fusion got going with a glove-side goal from Noha Flaten to give them an early lead.
Five minutes later, the Fusion took a commanding lead when Luke Sharp found Kellen Kroger in front of the net for another goal.
With less than 10 seconds in the second period Bozeman nearly pulled within one, but Fusion goalie Seamus Quinn made a fantastic save to preserve the 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
In the third period, Bozeman netted its first goal with 7:58 left. Minutes later, Flathead's Owen Eisinger ended any hope for Bozeman as he back-handed one in to make it 3-1.
Flathead shut down Bozeman's chances the rest of the way to become the state champion.
"Pretty awesome that I had such a great group of kids that had such incredible chemistry and camaraderie," said head coach Ben Eisinger. "At the end of the day, that's what won the game."
Every championship team has to be special, and this team was. The Fusion finished with a 21-2-4 overall record. There's also always something that separates a championship team from the rest. For the Fusion, it was how they played for each other, something you don't see a lot of at that age level.
"I think most 15- or 14-year-olds are very worried about themselves, and these kids, it's the first group that I've coached they were more concerned about not letting a teammate down then themselves," said Eisinger. "So it was pretty cool."
Another interesting fact about the 14U Fusion this season was that they had four girls -- Patricia Hinchey, Alexis Kersten, Emma Cummings and Dawson Chambers -- on their roster. All four made an impact on the state title run.
"It's seldom that you find girls that play at this high of a level," said Eisinger. "All four are very talented, very fast. The tough thing about it -- as a coach, you worry about the physical part of it, you don't want them to get hurt, there's a pretty big size difference. They played, not only did they play, they made up a third of our team and they're incredible. When it came to the difference between being physical and fast, being smart overcame their obstacles for them."
If you have a kid interested in playing hockey next season anywhere in the state of Montana, you can find information by clicking here.