IHAAZ gets teams back to normalcy with early June event
Nearly three months after its last festival, roller hockey was back in full swing for IHAAZ teams the first week in June with a state qualifier tournament.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a tourney played under different circumstances at the Peoria Sportsplex. Social distancing guidelines were in place as well as added precautions when it came to cleaning and sanitation.
The tourney featured two new teams. The Blue Devils prevailed in the 14U division with a 3-0-1 record. The 10U Labeda Arizona Roller Knights didn’t win a game but had a blast.
The Roller Knights were under the direction of head coach Rich Garvey, who has a vast background in both ice and roller hockey as a player and coach.
The interesting thing is that had there not been a pandemic, a new team wouldn’t have had a chance to compete in an IHAAZ event so late in the year.
“It created an opportunity,” Garvey said. “Our kids were chomping at the bit to get back out there and compete and have fun and be with their peers again.”
Most of the players for the Roller Knights were new to roller hockey, having mainly played ice hockey, and yet they embraced the new experience. The win-loss column didn’t matter at all.
“We lost all four games but throughout every game, all the kids had smiles and at the end of the tournament, they expressed in wanting to stay together and compete at state (later this month),” Garvey said.
The Blue Devils enjoyed their experience as well. They were coached by Cole Kamin, an Arizona State roller hockey player that grew up playing the sport. He enjoyed seeing his team compete at the festival.
“The experience playing in this IHAAZ tournament was incredible,” Cole said. “As the tournament went along, the boys really learned how to play together. This is what ultimately gave us such great success.”
Marc Kamin, who is Cole’s dad and put the team together, said what impressed him most was that many of the players were new to tourney play in the sport.
“About half the team had never played in an organized roller hockey game prior to this tournament and each and every one of them not only met, but exceeded expectations,” Marc said. “To have the success that we did was simply icing on the cake.”
The Outlaws and Jr. Wildcats both finished 3-1 in the 8U division, splitting their two games in the tournament.
The Outlaws, who won 7-2 over the Jr. Wildcats after falling 6-5 in an earlier game against the same team, outscored their opponents 28-8, shutting out two opponents to give them the first-place finish. The Jr. Wildcats finished with a 22-13 edge in goals scored.
In the 10U division, the Outlaws and Knighthawks both fashioned 4-1 records at the tourney. Their only loss was to each other, with the Outlaws winning 4-3 and the Knighthawks avenging the loss with a 6-5 win and taking the title.
The Outlaws Black 12U team completed an unbeaten run through the tournament in dominating fashion, holding a 30-7 advantage in goals scored. They closed out the tourney with a 10-2 win over the Jr. Wildcats Blue.
As for the 18U division, the Knigthawks won all four of their games, though the finale didn’t come easy as the Yetis battled hard before falling 5-4.
For everyone involved, it was a chance to get back to playing the sport they love. Cole took notice of how much his players loved the experience.
“What stood out to me was how much the new roller hockey players seemed to enjoy playing roller,” Cole said. “Seeing the excitement on the boys’ faces as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the final game was great.”
— Brian Lester
(Aug. 5, 2020)