IHAAZ teams gearing up for exciting 2019 State Finals
It won’t be long before the IHAAZ State Finals are underway at the Barney Family Sports Complex in Queen Creek.
The tournament is set for May 3-5 and champions will be crowned in each of the five age divisions.
The regular-season titles have already been decided. The Jr. Wildcats ended the regular season atop the 8U division while the Prescott Storm finished on top in the 10U division.
The Yuma Blaze dominated the 12U and 14U divisions, winning regular-season titles in both age groups. The Midget Division title for the regular season went to the Royals White.
The titles for the 12U, 14U and Midget divisions, all of which compete for a regular-season crown, were decided at the final festival March 29-31 at the Peoria Sportsplex.
The 8U and 10U teams play a tournament only format in each of the five festivals.
At the festival in Peoria, Yuma rolled to a 9-1 win over the AZ Royals and crushed the Renegades 9-1. The Blaze then defeated Knighthawks Green 8-4 and beat Knighthawks Red 8-4. The Blaze finished the regular season with an 18-0 record, scoring 122 goals and allowing only 34.
The Jr. Wildcats are the next closest team to the Blaze in the division, finishing the regular season with a 15-2-0-1 record.
“The Jr. Wildcats’ only two losses were to Yuma, and they were pretty close games. The State Finals should see a matchup between those two teams,” IHAAZ tournament director Nick Boyarsky said.
Yuma won the 14U title with a 17-3 record. The Blaze scored 126 goals and gave up 38, with many of the same players that played for the 12U team.
The standings are fairly close, though, which should set the stage for an exciting tourney at the State Finals. The AZ Royals won a 14-5-0-1 record and the Jr. Wildcats are 12-8. The Royals enter the State Finals on a three-game winning streak.
At the last festival in Peoria, Yuma rolled to a 9-1 win over the Knighthawks and edged the AZ Royals 5-4. The Blaze lost 6-2 to the Jr. Wildcats but topped the Prescott Storm 5-1.
“Yuma comes out on top with the regular-season championship, but it’s really going to be a horse race in the State Finals,” Boyarsky said.
In the Midget Division, AZ Royals White fashioned a 17-0-0-1 record, putting up 108 goals and allowing only 18. The AZ Royals White team has won its last seven games, carrying a lot of momentum into the State Finals.
The Northern AZ Yetis are 13-3-0-1 on the year and ended up second in the division. The Yetis handed AZ Royals White its only loss of the season.
“Royals White dominated the division, but the stage is set for an upset at the state championships,” Boyarsky said.
“Many times in this division, the team that is dominant all year is upset set in the State Finals,” Boyarsky said.
At the festival in Peoria, AZ Royals White dominated the Jr. Wildcats 8-1 in its festival opener and blanked the Yuma Blaze 4-0. The AZ Royals White also topped the Knighthawks 8-1 in its final game of the regular season.
The great thing about the State Finals is the door is open for everyone to contend in what should be a competitive battle for the state championships.
“Everyone has a chance, whether you are the first-place team or the last-place team, to upset the champ of the regular season,” Boyarsky said.
Boyarsky said individual awards from the regular season are expected to be given out and there will be a skills competition as well.
There won’t be an all-star game, but all-stars will be recognized from each division and given a commemorative jersey for their selection to the team.
Boyarsky said the Arizona Coyotes will also be on hand at the State Finals with something special at the event, adding more fun to what should be an enjoyable final weekend of IHAAZ action.
— Brian Lester
(May 2, 2019)