Jr. Coyotes sweep Bobcats to win trio of Tier I states
The Phoenix Jr. Coyotes are Arizona Amateur Hockey Association Tier I state champions three times over.
In late January, the Jr. Coyotes’ Elite AAA 14U, 16U and 18U teams all captured state titles with best-of-three series wins over Arizona Bobcats teams.
For Mike Vukonich’s 18U team, it took until the deciding Game 3, a 6-1 win Jan. 29 at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, to be crowned state champions. The Bobcats took Game 1, 5-4 in double overtime, and the Jr. Coyotes won Game 2 by a 6-1 count.
“The state championships are always one of the most exciting times of the year,” said Vukonich. “No matter what the record of each team going into the game, you know the games will be tough, hard-fought matches. Since a lot of these kids have grown up playing together, there is a tremendous level of pride on the line. It is never easy to win in these games. The kids played desperate and really played as well as I have seen them this year to win the last two games.”
The 18U Jr. Coyotes include forwards Trey Bagwell, Brett Dillon, Brenton Hill, Seth Lind, Zack McKenna, Jackson Nauss, Brett Pickler, Drew Platt, Yehor Vinnytskyi and Mason Vukonich; defensemen Matthew Clarke, Jonathan Dube, Miles Lengyel and Tristan Moss; and goaltenders Jacob Berger, Oliver Boerst and Ulysses Lalor. Vukonich’s assistant coaches are Darren Nauss and Hiroki Wakabayashi.
Next up for the 18U group is the Tier I Elite Hockey League (T1EHL) playoffs over Presidents’ Day weekend in Blaine, Minn. USA Hockey Rocky Mountain Regionals are then March 11-13 in Denver with the USA Hockey Tier I National Tournament March 31-April 4 in San Jose, Calif.
Shawn McCosh’s 16U team also needed all three games to topple the Bobcats, winning the opener 5-2, then losing 6-4 before regrouping for the clinching 5-2 win Jan. 30 at the Ice Den.
“The boys were very excited to play this year’s state championship,” McCosh said. “They were aware that for this year, only one team goes to districts from Arizona, so it made this year a more intense battle with both sides wanting to win. Although we beat the Bobcats three times and tied them once in the regular season, we knew we would have to compete hard to beat them out.”
This year’s 16U Jr. Coyotes team is made up of forwards Andreas Aune, Daniel Chambers, Brett Hahkala, Hayden Hirsch, Dmitri Karnaukh, Demetrios Koumontzis, Jake Lamberty, Che Landikusic, Michael McCosh, Erik Middendorf, Luke Ormsby and Del Perina; defensemen Jeremy Gabriele, Chandler Koper, Reid Miller and Andy Perkins; and goalies Armand Charland and Dmytro Zakharchenko. Dave Ellett serves as McCosh’s assistant coach.
The Midget Minors play regionals in March for a shot to play in San Jose.
At the 14U level, the Jr. Coyotes cruised to the state crown (top photo) with two straight shutouts (8-0 and 4-0) over the Bobcats, culminating with the title on Jan. 27 at the Arcadia Ice Arena. Cav Holbrook and Cole Sniffin each posted a shutout.
“Obviously, I am thrilled for the kids to have won the title,” said 14U coach Jason Wright. “They have worked extremely hard and kept a great attitude over the last several months. We have not had a full team yet this year as we have had injury after injury and still have managed to compete in every game. The never-quit mentality is something we talk about quite a bit.”
The Jr. Coyotes’ 14U squad is comprised of forwards Josh Brown, Will Josephson, Rowan Miller, Matt Peterson, Jacob Poteet, Jared Shuter, Noah Vance, Josh Vesely, Garrett Wright and Connor Ziegler; defensemen Cade Fredrickson, Mitch Gorham, Trevor Griebel, Tyler Johnson, Kyan Lakin and Daniel Obarski; and netminders Holbrook and Sniffin. Wright’s assistant coaches are Mike Johnson and Jon Vesely.
Moving forward, the 14U team is in Blaine for the T1EHL playoffs, then regionals in Denver and hopefully, Anchorage, Alaska, from March 31-April for the national tournament.
— Matt Mackinder