GLENDALE, ARIZONA---Throughout the month of January, six local youth hockey teams will attempt to put to rest an age old myth that good youth hockey is only played in Canada and the Snowbelt states.
Three teams from the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), along with one team each from the Desert Youth Hockey Association (DYHA), Valley of the Sun Hockey Association (VOSHA) and Phoenix Polar Bears Hockey Association, will travel to Port Huron, Mich., Pelham, Ont. and Sarnia, Ont. to participate in the Silver Stick International Tournament — one of North America’s oldest and most prestigious youth hockey tournaments.
In order to reach these Finals and earn their trek north, the teams competed in Regional qualifying tournaments in October and November. These battles tested their might and sharpened their young skills for the national stage that lies ahead.
| Coyotes Bantam 93 Team |
First up is the CAHA Jr. Coyotes Bantam 93 team, which will look to improve upon a season record of 34-8-1 when they travel to Port Huron January 10-13 and participate in the Bantam AA Division. In capturing their regional title in Westminster, Colo. back in October, the Jr. Coyotes posted a perfect 5-0 record including a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Springs Jr. Tigers in the championship game. The team was led by goaltenders Justin Pavia and Shakeel McKinley who only allowed three goals over the five games. The Jr. Coyotes outscored their opponents 16-3 over the weekend.
UPDATE: After over three months of preparation and hard work, the Jr. Coyotes made their way to Port Huron, Michigan and faced some of the toughest competition they have seen all year. Fifteen other teams from the U.S. and Canada earned a spot in the finals and the teams were divided into four pools of four teams each. The top two teams from each pool advanced to the quarterfinals and the tournament took on a single elimination format. In the opening game of the Red Division, the Coyotes outshot their opponent, the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, by a 2:1 ratio but were unable to solve a hot goaltender and fell 2-0. The team bounced back nicely by defeating the host team and a tough team from Kingston, Ontario to finish pool play with a record of 2-1; good enough for second place. By finishing second in their pool, the Jr. Coyotes qualified for the quarterfinals where they matched up against the Hatfield Ice Dogs (Lansdale, PA), who finished first in the Blue Division and came into the tournament ranked number three in the country. The boys fought hard but came up short, falling 5-3. Just making it to the “elite eight” is an accomplishment in itself, as more than 500 Bantam AA teams from around the country and Canada competed for the right to play in this prestigious tournament. Asked about what this tournament meant to the boys, Head Coach Dennis Leclair said, “I truly believe that the kids gained a tremendous amount of confidence from their experience and realized that they can compete with some of the top teams in the country.” The Jr. Coyotes finish the season with a tournament in Prescott Valley and the Arizona State Playdowns where they will look to take their first step towards a USA Hockey National Championship. Congratulations boys and good luck the rest of the season!
Joining the Jr. Coyotes in Ontario January 10-13 will be the VOSHA Mustangs Bantam B team which will play in the Bantam A/E Division in Pelham, Ontario. The Mustangs qualified for the tournament by winning the Pacific Region held in San Jose November 22-25. Over the four-game tournament, the Mustangs outscored their opponents 19-3 including a 9-0 romp of the host San Jose Jr. Sharks. The championship game would prove to be a much tougher task, as the Mustangs and Tri-Valley Blue Devils skated to a 2-2 tie after 3 periods. The Mustangs, however, would not be denied a trip to Ontario when Steven Swanson scored the game winning goal just 26 seconds into overtime to send the Mustangs to Pelham.
UPDATE: Since there are vast differences between USA Hockey and Hockey Canada in what constitutes a B-level team, a new division (Additional Entry or A/E) was created in 1999 to accommodate. Like the classic format of the AAA, AA, and A Silver Stick tournaments, teams must win their regional B tournament to qualify. Over October and November, 16 regional tournaments were held in the U.S. and Canada and the winners advanced to Pelham, Ontario January 10-13. The teams were divided into four pools of four teams with two Canadian and two U.S. teams per pool. At the conclusion of pool play, the first and second place teams from each pool advance to the Tier I Finals and the third and fourth place teams advance to the Tier II Finals. The Mustangs were placed in pool B with two teams from Ontario and a team from Greenville, South Carolina. In their first game against Greenville, the Mustangs played hard and came away with a 1-1 tie. Their next two games proved to be a daunting task, as the Mustangs fell to both Ontario teams by scores of 5-2 and 10-1. Based on goal differential, the Mustangs finished fourth in their pool and advanced to the Tier II Finals. A lot of teams may have been discouraged, but the Mustangs persevered with a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals. Up next was a team from Raleigh with a berth in the Tier II Championship on the line. The entire team played an outstanding defensive game and came away with a 2-0 victory earning them a date with the Chicago Flames. Trying to become the first ever Arizona team to lay claim to a Silver Stick National Championship, the Mustangs came away with a 3-1 victory! “This is something they will cherish for a lifetime-they might not know it yet but this is something they can all look back on as a great achievement in their lives,” Coach Gary Swanson remarked after his team defeated Chicago. Congratulations to all of the members of the VOSHA Bantam B team and good luck with the rest of your season!
The CAHA Jr. Coyotes Squirt 97 team will travel to Sarnia over Martin Luther King Weekend (January 18-20) and participate in the Atom A Division (equivalent to USA Hockey’s Squirt Division). Over the first weekend in October, the Jr. Coyotes were able to go through the Rocky Mountain Regional with an unblemished 6-0 record including two heart-stopping shootout victories. Jonas Edwards and Michael Mahan both converted in a dramatic championship game shootout to propel the Jr. Coyotes to Sarnia. On the season, the Jr. Coyotes have posted a 25-7-3 record, outscoring their opponents 187-52 in the process.
|Phoenix Polar Bears Peewee 95 Team |
The Phoenix Polar Bears Peewee 95 took Texas by storm October 6-8, winning the Rocky Mountain Regional. Playing six games in 53 hours, the Polar Bears went through the tournament undefeated, compiling a 6-0 out scoring their opponents 28-10 along the way. The Polar Bears never trailed in the entire tournament until a fluke goal caromed off a skate during the championship game. The team raced back from that 1-0 deficit, beating the Austin Roadrunners 5-2 in the tournament championship game. Joining the Polar Bears in Port Huron will be the CAHA Jr. Coyotes Peewee 95 team, which won the Pacific Regional over Thanksgiving weekend by posting a 6-0 record and outscoring their opponents 31-7. The team was led by a strong defensive effort and only trailed once throughout the tournament. Both teams will compete in the Peewee A division in Port Huron January 24-27.
|DYHA Firebirds Bantam 93-94 Team |
Last, but not certainly least, will be the DYHA Firebirds Bantam 93-94 team. The Firebirds won the Dallas Rocky Mountain Regional in October in convincing fashion to qualify. Led by goaltenders Scott Moggel and Matt Hill, the Firebirds were able to hold their opponents to only one game during the five-game tournament, while notching 23 goals of their own. The tournament started out with four straight shutouts for the team made up of 13 and 14-year old boys, and finished with an exciting 2-1 defeat of the Austin Roadrunners to claim the Championship trophy and earn their trip north. The Firebirds will be competing in the Bantam A Division in Port Huron, which will take place January 24-27.
The Silver Stick International Tournament began in 1958 as a way to further international relations among youth hockey players from Ottawa and upstate New York. The first trophy, a long silver hockey stick, was presented to the winners of the tournament in Richmond, Ont. Five years later, the tournament moved to Port Huron, and has been a mainstay there ever since. Currently, Peewee and Bantam Finals are held in Port Huron with Squirt and Midget Finals in Sarnia. Over the last 45 years, the Silver Stick has grown into one of the largest hockey tournaments in North America and now sees more than 65,000 youth hockey players and coaches participate in the quest for the title of Silver Stick Champion. Regional qualifiers are held across the United States and Canada in the fall with the finals in January. For more information on the Silver Stick, visit www.silverstick.org.
For more information on youth hockey in the Valley, contact Coyotes Manager of Hockey Development, Scott Storkan, at email@example.com.
Jr. Coyotes Bantam 93 Roster
Dennis Leclair-Head Coach
VOSHA Mustangs Bantam B Roster
Gary Swanson-Head Coach
Jr. Coyotes Squirt 97 Roster
Pat Mahan-Head Coach
Phoenix Polar Bears Peewee 95 Roster
Bruce Ericsson-Head Coach
Jr. Coyotes Peewee 95 Roster
Rick Tosto-Head Coach
Brad Corbett-Assistant Coach
Kevin Mailloux-Assistant Coach
DYHA Firebirds Bantam 93-94 Roster
Kevin Turner-Head Coach
Jeff Ittel-Assistant Coach