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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum will host the 2006 Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida (SAHOF) High School Combined State Hockey Championship tournament with the first games being played Friday, March 24 and the championship game being held on Sunday, March 26.

The tournament will feature eight teams from the Tampa Bay Area in a round-robin tournament battling for the right to be named Combined SAHOF State Champion. Schools qualifying for the tournament were River Ridge, Springstead, Brandon and Wesley Chapel from the Central Division, as well as Freedom, Gaither/Sickles, Tampa/Pinellas and Durant representing the Western Division. The top two teams from each division will advance to the semi-finals.

There are two Conferences in Florida high school hockey, the Panther Conference to the South and the Lightning Conference to the North. There are 20 teams in the Lightning Conference, 13 that play at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum and seven that skate out of the Tampa Bay Skating Academy. There are two types of teams in high school hockey, pure, which is made up of players from one school, and combined, which joins high schools based on their geographical location. The Pure Championship is being held in South Florida this year with the Combined Championship being held in Tampa.

This is the fifth Combined State Championship and it is the second time it is being hosted by the St. Pete Times Forum. They previous hosted the event for the 2001-02 season. Springstead has won three of the previous four Combined Championships.

Games will open at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 24 on the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum with rounds two and three being played on Saturday, March 25 at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum. Round two will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday with round three starting at 6 p.m.

Following round-robin play the semi-finals (9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.), third place game (noon) and championship game (1:30 p.m.) will be held on Sunday, March 26 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Admittance is free to the public for all games.

SAHOF is a non-profit corporation structured to administer all of USA Hockey's affiliated amateur ice hockey programs in the State of Florida. USA Hockey is divided into 11 districts throughout the United States. The district for the Tampa Bay region is called the Southeastern District. SAHOF originally became an active governing body in Florida in June of 1996. In May of 1999, at the annual Congress of USA Hockey, Florida was granted its separate affiliate status with USA Hockey by a unanimous vote by the USA Hockey's Board of Directors.

Media with questions or interest in obtaining accreditation for the event should contact Brian Breseman at 813.301.6871 or
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