18U AA Silver Knights win Icebreaker title
By Christopher C. Wuensch
It took a little locker room motivation and a late rally, but the Arizona Hockey Union 18UAA Silver Knights emerged victorious in their division in AHU’s own seventh-annual Icebreaker Invitational.
The Knights swept their way to the Midget title winning all four of their games during the Sept. 19-21 tournament, held at AZ Ice Gilbert.
Trailing 2-1 at the end of the second period of the championship game against the Phoenix Firebirds, the Knights held what head coach Shawn Babin described as a “come together meeting.”
The message stuck.
The Knights came out firing, scoring two goals in the first 3:25 to take the lead and the tournament hardware. Alex Storjohann took passes from Isaac Lee and Kevin Savela and tied the game at two goals apiece 2:05 into the third period. Some 80 seconds later, Lee grabbed his own glory by netting the game-winner.
From there it was only a matter of surviving a slew of penalties — four aside, to be exact — to hold on for the 3-2 win. Aaron Gittings stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced and Ashton Amaya tallied the Knights’ first goal.
The Knights might not have played their strongest hockey of the year, but their resolve shone through over the course of the tournament.
“It shows they have character,” Babin said. “They got the job done.”
The victory over DYHA was the second of the tournament for the Knights, who they beat 6-3 a day earlier, thanks to two goals from Alex Shupe.
The Knights also downed the California Wave 6-3 and the Mission AZ Ice White 8-2 to reach the finals.
Storjohann led all scorers for the weekend, registering as many goals (seven) as assists. Amaya was a close second with four goals and 9 assists.
How’s this for close? Knights’ goalies Tanner Ronning and Gittings each earned two wins; each allowed five goals and earned a 2.50 GAA. Ronning faced 51 shots to Gittings’ 50.
“This was a team effort by everybody with solid goaltending,” Babin said of the squad that’s been together for the better part of three to four years. “They’re starting to realize they’re a pretty good team.”
The key to the Knights’ success is moving the puck quickly and sticking with their system, Babin said.
The Knights weren’t the only ones competing in the Icebreaker Invitational. The Golden State Elite swept their way to a Midget 16UAA title. The Junior Coyotes 15UAAA topped all Arizona squads with a third place (6 points) finish.
The Nevada Storm headed back to the Silver State with the Bantam AA trophy. The AHU Silver Knights’ Bantam squad also finished the weekend in third.
The Knights’ efforts – resulting in a 5-3 overall record and 89.07 rating – landed the West Valley-based AHU squad the No. 35 slot out of 180 teams in the USA Midget 18U Tier 2 Week 3 rankings.
The team was scheduled to close out this month with the Chicago Fall Classic from Oct. 24-26 at the Addison Ice and the Leafs Ice Centre in the Windy City where they were planning to face teams ranging from Florida to British Columbia.
They’ll return home in November to square off in the 13th Annual Arizona Hockey Club’s Thanksgiving Shootout held Nov. 28-30 at AZ Ice Gilbert, AZ Ice Peoria and Oceanside Ice Arena.
With some regularly-schedule local games until that time, expect the Knights to rack up more wins and fewer “come together meetings.”