SCOTTSDALE -- On Saturday evening, eight Arizona high school hockey clubs met in Scottsdale to battle it out – and by the end of the night, four of those clubs got to go home as state champions.
The Arizona High School Hockey Association hosted the league’s state championships for Junior Varsity and Divisions I, II, and III co-ed ice hockey at the Scottsdale Ice Den on Saturday, February 6th.
With a brand-new trophy for the championship clubs sponsored by the Arizona Coyotes Hockey Club and a special appearance from NHL defenseman Connor Murphy for puck drops and trophy presentations, it was an incredible and memorable night for the eight teams participating.
In the first game scheduled on the night, the Shadow Ridge Stallions Junior Varsity club took home a 3-2 late game victory over the Brophy Broncos Junior Varsity roster with an early gained lead that Brophy couldn’t overcome. Although the Broncos would score an unassisted goal in the final minutes of the third period, it just wasn’t enough to overcome the 3-1 lead established by Shadow Ridge in the early minutes of the final frame.
Meanwhile, one rink over at the Ice Den, the Cactus Shadows Falcons became the 2015-16 Fall Season Division III champions with the only overtime victory of the night. Goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden – one of the first-ever ASU Women’s Hockey ACHA recruits - was the only goaltender of the night to allow just one goal in a championship game, and she did so in the lone overtime game, as well; although Dino Brunetti of the Notre Dame Saints Prep Division III club also only allowed one goal in regulation, his early goal allowed in extra minutes handed the victory over the Nash-Boulden and the Falcons.
The Division II game started off close between the Horizon Huskies and the Hamilton Huskies, with Hamilton heading into the third period up just 2-1 and maintaining their lead until the final eight minutes of the game. Two late-period goals from the Horizon roster were supplemented by an empty netter in the final minute of play during the third, though, sending Horizon home as the Division II champions.
Finally, the Division I game – played between powerhouse rivals in the Sandra Day O’Connor Eagles and the Desert Vista Thunder – came down to a final minute thriller, as well.
Desert Vista took an early lead over O’Connor in the first two periods, but a chippy third period of play between the two top division schools saw O’Connor record the second comeback victory of the night with four straight goals and take home the newly-awarded travelling trophy with a final score of 5-2.
The championship games were a testament to the growth of youth hockey in Arizona, with high level competition from all four divisions of play featured at the Ice Den. The Division I schools saw a healthy mix of club hockey players from around Arizona debuted on their respective rosters, offering a glimpse of the talent that has developed in the desert among players born and raised with the Coyotes as their hometown team - and all four games saw packed crowds in the bleachers there to cheer on the players.
Add in a guest appearance from Connor Murphy – who presented the trophy and awards to the Division III and Junior Varsity champions, then performed the ceremonial puck drop for the Division I and Division II games – and it was a successful night for desert hockey overall.
For those interested in learning more about the Arizona High School Hockey Association, you can visit the association’s website at www.ahsha.org.