Defending AHSHA champions gearing up for upcoming state playoffs
Last season, four AHSHA state champions were crowned.
This season, there will be five.
One major change to the 2018-19 season saw AHSHA revise Division 2 into A and B divisions. All stayed the same with Division 1, Division 3 and the JV Division.
Quarterfinal games will be played on Jan. 26-27, while the semifinal round will be held on Feb. 2 and Feb. 8. The state champions for D-1 and D-2 will be crowned on Feb. 9 with the D-3 and JV titlists being crowned on Feb. 10.
All playoff games will be at the Ice Den Scottsdale.
Pinnacle won the Division 1 title a year ago and coach Glenn Karlson knows the road is tough to repeat.
“It is a good group of boys,” Karlson said. “We added a few new faces from last year’s team and the injection of the new blood has helped the team come together quicker. We just want to stay hungry to repeat. This has been a bit easier since we lost two-thirds of last year’s team, but the new players are driving the team’s desire to do it again. It won’t be an easy task with the talent on the other teams this year being much deeper.”
Greg Vaughn led Centennial to the D-2 championship in 2017 and 2018. He expects another long run in 2019.
“We lost 10 seniors last year, which has left us in a rebuilding mode after winning back-to-back championships,” Vaughn said. “Most of our team is comprised of players from our D-3 team last year and I feel we have made positive strides in the right direction. We currently sit in the middle of the pack but if we can get good goaltending and produce some offense, we might surprise some people and find ourselves with another opportunity to go far in the playoffs.”
At Division 3, Ray Reed’s Corona team is also rebuilding.
“We have a relatively young team that we are developing this season,” Reed said. “They have made great progress and I can see this team being a top contender in its division for the next 3-4 years. This has been a challenging year faced with injuries to key players and not having a full squad in place for half of the season. Heading into the playoffs, our team is healthy, and our full squad is ready to go.
“If we can stick to the systems we have put in place, we will most definitely be in contention for the championship.”
Flagstaff captured the JV title a year ago and is now competing in the D-3 ranks.
“Our entire team has heart,” said Flagstaff coach Daniel Carrick. “They put in work day in and day out regardless of the outcome. They put forward tremendous effort knowing they are growing as individuals as well as a team. We have had an injury-plagued season and they have fought through adversity. We elected to move up to D-3 to give the kids a different perspective. The keys for the team to do well at the D-3 level are teamwork, creativity and executing our plan of attack.”
How can Flagstaff excel in the playoffs later this month?
“I expect them to take it one step at a time and focus on the small details of the game that they can control,” Carrick said. “I need them to win the individual battles to give us a competitive edge over our opponents. They know the systems and what is expected of them from the coaches at this point in the season and it is up to them to execute. If we play our game, I expect us to thrive in the playoff atmosphere.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Jan. 21, 2019)