Phoenix youngster Cibrario enjoying USPHL rookie season with Hampton Roads
Arun Cibrario may have the perfect game plan for young Arizona hockey players looking to some day play the game they love while getting a great post-high school education.
The 17-year-old Phoenix native took his act to the opposite side of the country, making his junior hockey debut with the Hampton Roads Whalers out of Chesapeake, Va., this season.
The Whalers are a cornerstone squad in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL), a multi-tiered junior hockey league in the U.S. with two leagues playing at the Tier III level, working alongside the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference.
Cibrario has fit in perfectly on the team’s Elite level team, contributing 13 points (six goals, seven assists) through his first 10 games. This is a plum spot to be in as the Whalers enter the 2018-19 junior season as defending champions of both the Elite and Premier Leagues.
Having come up through the youth levels in Arizona, Cibrario played the 2017-18 season with the Arizona Bobcats’ 16U team where he picked up 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) and he credited the Bobcats for playing a part in getting him an audition with the Whalers.
Making the jump at every level presents new challenges and apart from the culture shock of moving to a new state and living with a new billet family, playing at the junior level provides some tests as well.
“Definitely the speed, it’s a lot faster game with a lot bigger people,” said Cibrario. “Going from playing with kids that are only my age to this is tough, but it’s not impossible.”
The Whalers, as expected, are a strong team again this season. After the Charlotte Showcase where the Whalers won all four games, the team sat in top spot in the Southeast Division with a record of 8-2-0-0.
At the tournament opener, the Whalers rolled over the DME (Daytona) Swamp Rabbits 8-0 and head coach Brad Jones basically rolled four lines through the game, so every player got a chance to get on the ice and play in front of the crowd that included several scouts on hand to check out the talent.
Cibrario picked up two assists in the game and obviously was pleased with the chemistry on his line.
“We just got a new kid on our team from Russia,” said Cibrario. “Our chemistry was good. It was just our first game together today.”
Playing for a team like the Whalers, the expectations are high. The Whalers have become accustomed to being a contender at both levels and Cibrario said he likes that.
“Yeah, the bar is set high, it’s always set high here,” said Cibrario. “We’re expected to win. It just pushes you harder.”
Jones is happy with what he has seen from the young Arizona forward so far.
“He can score goals, and he can put the puck in the net,” said Jones. “He’s still young so he’s still learning to play a 200-foot game, but when he gets the opportunity to score a goal, he doesn’t miss very often. He’s pretty creative that way. Now one big adjustment for him is consistently moving his feet, so he’s not standing still and watching. He’s been getting better at every practice, every day.”
As far as goals, Cibrario said he is just going to see how things work out this season.
He is ready to test the Premier level if team moves, injuries or his own level of play create the opportunity, but right now he is happy to just do everything he can to help the Elite-level squad which will no doubt be a championship contender again in the spring.
— Jim DenHollander/USPHL.com
(Oct. 15, 2018)