IHAAZ season in full swing after two events; Yuma next
A second IHAAZ festival is in the books and as usual, excitement and competitiveness were not in short supply.
The Prescott Storm and Phoenix Knighthawks have gone back and forth in the 8U division in the two festivals that have taken place. The Knighthawks dominated in Peoria, but the Storm made things more interesting this time in Lake Havasu City over the Jan. 5-7 weekend, building a four-goal lead before the Knighthawks rallied for a one-goal win.
The Knighthawks are 5-0-1 on the year, while Prescott is 3-1-2.
In the 10U division, the Knighthawks Green team won all four of its games, closing out with a 10-2 win over Yuma. The Knighthawks Green team is unbeaten at 8-0 this season. The Jr. Wildcats are 6-2.
The 12U division featured strong performances from the Jr. Wildcats and Knighthawks. The Jr. Wildcats won the head-to-head matchup with the Knighthawks 5-2 to finish the festival with three wins. The Knighthawks won twice.
The Jr. Wildcats sit atop the standings with a 5-1 record. The Knighthawks are 4-2.
The AZ Royals built their lead to six points over the Jr. Wildcats in the standings of the 14U Division and sport an 8-0 record.
Their dominance has been fueled by an offense that has cranked out 60 goals in the first eight games of the season. The Royals won all four of their games in Havasu, including a 9-2 win over the Jr. Wildcats, and they finished the tourney with 31 goals.
The Jr. Wildcats, the only other team with a winning record in the division, are 6-2 and have scored 55 goals this season.
In the Midget division, the Yuma Blaze had a strong showing and remains atop the standings in a highly competitive division.
The Yuma Blaze Black won three games in Havasu, including a thrilling 1-0 win over the Knighthawks, to stay in first place. The AZ Royals Blue team, which won the state finals last season, is in third place, but still has time to make a run to the top.
The Blaze Black is 6-0, while AZ Royals White is 5-1. The AZ Royals Blue squad is 3-3.
The Yuma Festival at Kennedy Park is up next and scheduled for Feb. 9-11.
Matt DiCori, the president of Yuma Youth Hockey and also a coach in the program, is looking forward to the opportunity to host it.
“Yuma Youth Hockey is excited as always to host one round of the IHAAZ series and represent the desert southwest,” Dicori said. “Roller hockey is alive and well in Yuma, and we have taken major strides forward this year in restoring our rink. Thanks to the previous boards we have saved enough of a nest egg, to reinvest hard earned fundraising monies into some improvements to our facility.”
Yuma will have six teams competing in a festival that will feature 30 teams in all. The Yuma program is thriving despite being in a smaller area in the state.
“We have teams in each of the divisions and two in the high school,” Dicori said. “As a smaller community than the Phoenix-Metro area, we work hard to cultivate talent from within, and our group of high schoolers have been playing together for a long time and they have bought into a system that is producing steady results. Our younger age groups are seeing a boom in participation over the last couple of years, and we have several young coaches dedicated to those groups.
“It is a very exciting time to see the progress of those youngsters.”
Dicori is looking forward to seeing the teams compete and the chance to showcase the city.
“We look forward to showing off our fine city and providing some excellent barbecue and playing some high-quality hockey,” Dicori said. “The Yuma Blaze families are a tight-knit group and we welcome the other families of Prescott, Phoenix and Tucson to join us and watch our young boys and girls shine in the Arizona desert.”
— Brian Lester
(Feb. 1, 2018)