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AHU Bantam Black team facing early challenges head-on

 

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For the Arizona Hockey Union’s Bantam Black team, the 2018-19 season will be one chock-full of new challenges.

With body contact and checking at the top of the list, head coach Jim Pinti has been tackling those concepts during practices with the first-year Bantam club.

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“The process for teaching checking? Hit or get hit,” Pinti said. “You either like it or you don’t. We have battle drills, 1-on-1, 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 battle drills down low. Keep preaching head up and crisp quick passing as to not get one of their teammates lit up because of a soft pass.”

As to his philosophy in teaching Bantam-aged players, Pinti said the expectations are simple.

“First and foremost, the kids need to have fun and must want to compete,” said Pinti. “We want respectful players both on and off the ice and they must be a good teammate. We need to pay attention to detail and play a fast-paced style of hockey. Players know they have a constructive input when it comes to team goals and objections.

“We will not be outworked and will be a well-conditioned team.”

Over Labor Day Weekend to open the season, the Knights traveled to San Diego and won their division in the Fun In The Sun tournament at the Iceplex and San Diego Ice Arena, edging the SDIA Oilers 3-2 in the championship game.

AHU downed the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils 7-1 on Friday, lost to the Oilers on Friday night 5-3, defeated the San Diego Jr. Gulls 6-1 Saturday afternoon and then played the Jr. Gulls again on Sunday night and took a 7-1 in the semifinals.

“I liked our players’ tenacity and work ethic,” Pinti said. “Plenty to work on but having 15 of 16 returning players from last year’s state champion Pee Wee team, we are in a great position to excel as a first-year Bantam team. We need to work on keeping heads up, speed through the neutral zone and positioning.

“I also like the fact that we have 10 players who have been together since Squirts. The 15 out of 16 players back from last year and the three solid pickups we added this year really round out a balanced roster of speed, skill and size.”

And when it comes to team chemistry, Pinti said it’s been “solid” so far.

“Details deliver and culture wins,” said Pinti. “Our team motto is ‘Desire, Discipline, Dedication.’ We have a great group of kids who every time they step on the ice want to get better and learn the game to take it to a higher level. Also, I can’t express enough what a great group of families these kids come from and the amount of support we have from parents is just phenomenal.”

Moving forward, the Bantam Black squad will have challenges, but facing them down and succeeding is what Pinti wants to see happen.

“Playing Tier II as a first-year Bantam team will present its challenges but I expect this group to finish in the top four of the league,” said Pinti. “Realistically, we’re looking to win 60 percent of regular-season games, score three or more goals each game and give up three or less goals every game.”

This year’s Bantam Black team is made up of forwards Matthew Benzing, Cole Brown, Cameron Cable, Jeremiah Girnt, Sean Haggard, Kai Hohoff, River Lewis, Beauwin Maher and Tyler Shin; defensemen Zach Delsante, Owen Johnson, Nathan McClure, Kyra Mittendorf, Sydney Pinti and Josh Sherman; and goaltenders Rocco Ferrara and Nathan Graybill.

Joining Pinti on the bench are assistant coaches Davis Dryden, Brian Lewis and Dave Paliwodzinski. The team manager is Katrina Delsante.

— Matt Mackinder

(Sept. 18, 2018)