For Scottsdale’s Kamin, special 2021-22 season yields trio of Arizona state championships
The term “triple crown” is well known around sports circles.
In horse racing, it means one horse wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In baseball, it means one player leads the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
In Arizona hockey it can only mean one thing – when a player wins a high school state championship, a travel hockey state championship and a roller hockey state championship.
Not only was this done in Arizona this past season, but it was done at the highest level offered for a state championship in all three instances.
To say this past season has been a banner one for Scottsdale’s Carson Kamin would be an understatement.
His Pinnacle Division 1 team won the state championship, going 27-2-1 on the season, while his DYHA Jr. Sun Devils 16U team played 54 games this past season, going 44-7-3 and winning the state title. Finally, Kamin played for the AZ Chilis in the IHAAZ State Finals 18U top division and came out victorious despite having only six skaters who played seven games in a 24-hour period to take home the championship.
When asked how it felt to win the triple crown, Kamin stated that it “felt great to have that much success in one season.”
The success started with PHS being crowned state champs in February.
Kamin was the lone freshman on a team with 14 seniors. Going into camp, Kamin was not necessarily on the radar for the D1 team, in large part due to him being a freshman. At the Flagstaff camp, Kamin impressed the coaches enough that they decided to go against general PHS tradition by putting a freshman on the D1 roster for the first time in several years. While Kamin grew up playing defense, PHS saw his offensive talent and played him at forward the entire regular season where he put up 24 points in 17 games.
Kamin also was able to find time to study his freshman year, finishing with a 3.83 GPA.
“My parents have always stressed the importance of school and balancing academics with athletics,” Kamin said. “While hockey has always been a big part of my life, I realize how important school is when looking at the big picture.”
Heading into the playoffs, where defense becomes a bigger priority, Kamin was asked to move back to the blue line, which he readily agreed to do in order to bolster PHS’s chances of winning a state title. The move worked, culminating in PHS’s 4-2 victory over Notre Dame Prep to move on to the USA Hockey High School National Tournament in Dallas.
At nationals, PHS swept the round robin games and won its quarterfinal matchup before finally losing in the national semifinals.
Kamin still remembers the dressing room after the last game.
“There was not a dry eye in that room,” Kamin said. “Each and every one of us didn’t want our magical season to end. I will always feel a special bond to that team for the rest of my life.”
Kamin also thoroughly enjoyed the high school experience, which included playing in front of packed crowds for many of the games including the finals, a sellout at Oceanside Ice Arena with nearly 1,000 in attendance. His freshman year also saw him skate in the D1 all-star game as well as receive honorable mention all-state.
“Every hockey player in Arizona hopefully gets the chance to play high school hockey with their buddies from school and experience classmates cheering them on at every step along the way,” said Kamin.
In March, the state held its annual state playdowns where Kamin’s JSD team brought multiple tournament titles and a top 10 national ranking into the tournament. The Jr. Sun Devils ran the table in the round robin and swept the Jr. Coyotes in the best-of-three final to earn a trip to USA Hockey Nationals in Michigan. Nationals saw the Jr. Sun Devils sweep their round robin games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the No. 2 team in the nation.
Unfortunately, they unexpectedly ended up on the losing end of a quarterfinal tilt that saw their season come to an end, but not before compiling an amazing 44 wins and a national No. 8 ranking, the highest of any Arizona travel team this past season.
On the campaign, Kamin contributed 34 points in 54 games as a blueliner.
In late spring, many of the state’s ice hockey players turn to roller hockey.
This year, the IHAAZ state roller hockey finals were played in June in Prescott. The AZ Chilis were comprised of all 14- and 15-year-olds playing in the 18U top division.
The tournament did not get off to a great start for the Chilis, who lost their first three contests and finished the round robin in last place. After playing a “play in” game, the Chilis ran the table with convincing semifinal and finals wins over the top two teams in the round robin, taking the finals 8-3 over the Desert Scorpions despite being by far the youngest team in the tournament.
Kamin chipped in with 16 points in the seven games, including eight points in the three playoff games.
As for which championship was hardest to win, Kamin said one stood out over the others.
“It was clearly the roller one as we were not really expected to win and there was very little room for error,” Kamin said. “I can say that all of my teammates (Jacob Spraetz, Andrew Watterson, Sam Borzone, Brandon Gorzynski, Mason Knaffla and goalie Lincoln Miele) played hard and as a team and believed in ourselves and Coach Marv Simmons, which allowed us to come out on top.”
When asked which state title gave him the most satisfaction, Kamin without hesitation stated it was PHS winning the high school championship.
“I spent years watching my older brother play for PHS and remember how awesome it was watching him get a D1 state champ ring his senior season and for years, that has been a goal of mine,” Kamin said. “I didn’t necessarily expect to do it in my freshman year since I know freshman don’t usually get a chance to play D1 at PHS, but I’m forever thankful to my PHS coaches (Gary Ihling, Chris Ihling, Brian Derryberry, Rick Lyons, and Peter Papadatos) for giving me the opportunity.”
Since Kamin grew up around the rink as a result of having a brother seven years older playing, he naturally gravitated towards hockey.
“Ever since I was really young, I’ve always had a passion and love for the game,” said Kamin. “My parents made me play some other sports when I was younger, and while I had some fun experiences, none of them compared to hockey”.
Growing up, Kamin played several years for the 2006 Jr. Coyotes before making the switch this past season.
“I loved my time with the ’06 Coyotes but heading into my freshmen year of high school, I knew I had to make a choice between continuing to play for the ’06 Coyotes or getting to play high school,” Kamin said. “The Jr. Sun Devils’ 16U team that was comprised of all ’05’s, other than three other ’06 skaters, offered the perfect opportunity in allowing me to play high school and also skate with a mostly ’05 group of talented players, not to mention the top-notch coaching tandem of Brad Norton and Nick Naumenko who taught me so much I can’t even put it into words.”
As for his plans for the upcoming season, Kamin did receive several out-of-state Tier I offers following participation in a CCM showcase in the spring (where not ironically his team went 4-0). Despite those offers, Kamin says he’s set on returning to play at PHS and JSD in the hopes of defending those titles.
“I want to play high school hockey again this season in Arizona for PHS,” said Kamin. “With losing 14 seniors at PHS it will be a tall task to repeat, but I don’t think anyone should count PHS out and certainly we are not counting ourselves out. Our JSD team looks solid once again and with roller, who knows what will happen next season as that is a long way off, but I do love the laid-back vibe of roller once the ice season comes to an end.”
After more than 80 games of ice hockey over the course of seven months, the relaxed atmosphere of roller was well deserved for this young man.
— Matt Mackinder
(June 22, 2022)