IHAAZ continuing to boom with competitiveness for ’17-18 season
Prior to the season, changes were made for the IHAAZ campaign, including changes to the state tournament, which will feature a new format.
Regular-season champion cups have been awarded to champions in the 12U, 14U and Midget divisions, while the 8U and 10U divisions are run like tournaments in which medals are awarded for the champion and runner-up at each of the five festivals.
IHAAZ tournament director Nick Boyarsky believes the format has been beneficial in the divisions where champs will be crowned at the end of the regular season.
“With our small but competitive divisions, by mid-season, the top 1-2 teams in each age group tended to be the constant first- and second-place medalist, which got a bit tedious and defeating for the lower-placing teams,” Boyarsky said. “I wanted to find a way to keep it interesting from December through April and make all the games matter. Come State Finals, when it’s really on the line, then the tournament format becomes a lot more exciting.”
Boyarsky believes the competitiveness of the divisions has been enhanced by the new format.
Ultimately, every game matters.
“The league format allows that (competitiveness),” Boyarsky said. “The fourth- and fifth-place teams are trying to get ahead of each other. The same goes with the second- and third-place teams in some divisions. It makes those games against each other at each festival actually mean something and gives teams some game-by-game goals to work on.”
At the end of the season, awards will be given out to the top offensive player, top defensive player and top goalie in each of the divisions. Players must have played in at least three of the festivals to be eligible.
Also, two all-stars among non-goalies will be selected from each team and they will compete in a divisional all-star game. The top two goalies in each division will be named all stars as well. Every all-star player will receive a game jersey provided by Grasshopper Gamewear.
Boyarsky is glad to see all-star games back in the fold for IHAAZ. The games will feature two 10-minute periods.
“At one point early on in the series, we did do all-star games, but as we tightened State Finals into one weekend, there just wasn’t enough time,” Boyarsky said. “We’ve gotten a little creative with the schedule and figured out a way to make this work. They’ll be long days but in the end, it should be worth it. The experience, especially for the younger kids, will be special. They’ll leave with a custom jersey that commemorates their all-star position, and will have that to look back for years to come.”
As for the State Finals, which will be played May 4-6 at the Barney Family Sports Complex in Queen Creek and hosted by the AZ Royals, there are changes fans should expect.
Every division will have a round-robin tournament where all of the teams get a chance to compete against each other one final time. The post-round-robin tourney will vary based on the number of teams in each division.
For the 10U, 14U and Midget divisions, the No. 1 seed will play No. 2 for gold and silver and the third and fourth seeds will play for the bronze medal.
In the 8U and 12U round robin, the top two seeds will battle it out for the gold medal. There is no bronze medal game because the division only has four teams.
There will also be a skills competition for players in each division. Prizes will be supplied by Konixx Hockey and Behind The Mask.
Two festivals remain in the season – one was in Tucson March 16-18 and the last one is April 20-22 in Prescott.
“I know some teams are doing the math to see how many games they need to win and/or their opponents need to lose to move up in the standings,” Boyarsky said.
— Brian Lester
(March 30, 2018)