Determination, perseverance and commitment are often the biggest ingredients in the success of any amateur or professional sports team.
Of course, talent plays a vital role, too.
The Mid-Mustangs Under 16AA traveling ice hockey team, comprised of players from Hollidaysburg and Altoona High Schools, along with athletes from State College and Johnstown, have grit to match their talent, and the team exhibited both while winning the Tier 2 state championship Sunday, March 13.
Trailing the Pittsburgh Predators, 3-1 entering the third period, the Mustangs rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory in the championship game of the state tournament at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon, Pa. to win their second 16-U state championship in the past three seasons.
The Predators are coached by ex-Pittsburgh Penguins forward Bob Errey, who now works in the broadcast booth covering the Pens' games for Fox Sports Pittsburgh.
The Mustangs will now move on to national competition March 30-April 3 in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Reston, Va.
Mustangs coach Mike Bowman said that the state championship win typified the type of resolve the team has shown all season.
"We were down, 3-1 against one of the top goaltenders we've faced all season, but we have a group of guys that never gave up,'' Bowman said. "Our guys willed their way to victory. They showed great conditioning and outshot [the opposing Predators], 24-4 in the third period.''
Bowman's assistant coaches are brothers Glenn and Garrett Barbosa. Garrett Barbosa is a retired New York City fireman who was stationed in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and one of survivors of the terrorist attacks that day.
The state tournament was the culmination of a season for the traveling team that started way back last August. This year's squad posted a 21-5-1 regular-season record playing an independent schedule that took the squad as far away as Boston for games. The team's home games were played at Lakemont's Galactic Ice facility.
"Competing out of state has really helped us more than if we had just played locally,'' said Mackey Power, 16, a left wing on the team and a sophomore on the Hollidaysburg Area High School squad. "All the commitment and hard work that everybody on the team has put in this year has been the key.''
Power is one of five Blair County representatives on the Mustangs squad. The others are his fellow Hollidaysburg Area High School sophomore classmates Matt Gregory, a goaltender, forward Sam Lafferty, and defenseman Brent Heaton. Adam Badorrek, a defenseman and sophomore student at Altoona Area High School, rounds out the team's Blair County contingent.
Badorrek set up State College's Danny Moscone for the decisive overtime goal in the state championship game. Moscone unleashed a one-time shot for the game-winner.
"That goal going in in overtime was an amazing feeling,'' Lafferty said. "It's a special feeling knowing that we're the best team in the state at our age level.''
Six teams qualified for the state tournament - including three from the Pittsburgh area, one from Armstrong County, another from the Greensburg/Delmont area, and the Mustangs.
The Mustangs won all three games in a round-robin preliminary round leading up to the championship game. They played two games on March 13 - one in the morning and the title game in the late afternoon.
Now it's on to the national tournament, where the Mustangs will be one of the top teams in the 12-team field.
"I think we're expected to definitely compete for the national title,'' Bowman said of his team, which has averaged over five goals a game this year. "It's hard to say whether we're the best team there, but we certainly have the tools and weapons to go up against the teams that will be there.''