Today in Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Jr. Kings were in action as the AAA squad won their first game, 4-3, in the USA Hockey National Championship.
Kelly Sorensen is the Executive Director for the program, and today answered the following questions from Pittsburgh:
Q: What does this mean to the Jr. Kings program?
A: Having one of our flagship teams representing the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, California and the Pacific District at this years’ National tournament in Pittsburg is a great opportunity for our players and parents to experience the highest level of youth hockey in the United States while reinforcing our development model at the LA Jr. Kings to provide the elite player with the very best opportunity to achieve their individual goals and team success in hockey.
Q: What would it mean to win this event?
A: Winning the national tournament is the perfect ending to the season because it is the ultimate reward for the work you put in throughout this year and all other seasons leading up to this one. To get to Nationals you have to be a top team in your state and then win your district, which means there are no weak teams at the tournament. Every team has earned the right to play for the title of "national champion" and every player there has dedicated themselves to winning the gold medal. To be able to cap it all off with a win would be the reward that our players and parents deserve.
Q: Where does this rank among your group’s many accomplishments?
A: This season’s U16AAA ascent to the National stage is one of many opportunities the Jr. Kings have had in recent years. Last year U18AAA team was narrowly defeated 2-1 in the National final to Shattuck St. Mary’s. At various points throughout this past season as many as 5 of our 7 Tier 1 AAA teams were ranked in the Nation’s Top 10.
Q: How much are parents and volunteers behind your group to help propel the Jr. Kings to such success?
A: Without the over 500 players in our organization and the thousand plus parents working tirelessly at getting their sons and daughters to the rink our success is very much related to the quality families we have in the club. Between early mornings, long drives, traffic and cold arenas, let alone the financial costs, our parents give so much of themselves willingly so they can watch their children play the game they love. Our parents are the unsung heroes of hockey. We give thanks to them as well as all the volunteers that help us operate the Los Angeles Jr. Kings.
Q: Are the Jr. Kings a well-recognized and respected brand in the national hockey circles (in this age group)?
A: Our goal in has been to build the LA Jr. Kings into one of the most respected youth hockey organizations in North America. With our success in each of the past two seasons, there is no question that we have done that in the eyes of players, scouts and coaches throughout North America. Last year we won the Bronze medal and Silver medals in 16U and 18U at Nationals, and our 16U team finished third in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. From that team, Thatcher Demko moved on to the Omaha Lancers (USHL) before joining the US National Team Development Program and recently committed to Boston College; Nolan Stevens currently play for the US National Team Development Program and has received several scholarship offers; Garrett Gamez now plays for the Tri City Storm (USHL) and has committed to Denver; Ryan Siroky plays for the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) and committed to Miami-Ohio; Patrick Newell plays for the Indiana Ice (USHL) and committed to St. Cloud; Riley Alferd plays for the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL); and Gavin Nieto was drafted by Sioux City (USHL). This year's team also finished third in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League and is headed to USA Hockey Nationals this week. From it, Evan Sarthou has signed a contract with the Tri-City Americans (WHL); Keoni Texiera has signed a contract with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL); Robby Jackson recently attended the tryout camp for the US National Team Development Program, and several players have received NCAA Division I scholarship offers. With much more frequency, we have players and parents contacting us from out of state who want to play and billet in our program. Without question, you can include the LA Jr. Kings Midget program with the most respected in North America and we continue to get stronger.