Jr. Sun Devils’ 18U AA squad having fun, earning success
Jeff Shevalier played nine years of professional hockey in a career that included 32 games in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning.
He then jumped into the youth coaching realm in Arizona and this season, was named head coach of the Desert Youth Hockey Association’s (DYHA) 18U AA team.
If the first couple months of the season are any indication, the Jr. Sun Devils have the potential to be playing hockey into the early spring, much like only a select few NHL teams get to experience.
Back in early November, the 18U AA team journeyed to Nashville, Tenn., to partake in the Music City Showdown and came away as tournament champions, downing the host Music City Marauders 2-1 in a shootout in the championship final on Nov. 6.
It took six shooters before the Jr. Sun Devils broke though and goalie Barrett Rosser shut down the Marauders, allowing no shootout goals. Rosser subsequently captured MVP honors for the finals.
“What a great tournament for our young men,” said Shevalier. “We had a hard time scoring goals, but we outplayed every team that we faced. It was great to see the whole team pick up their game versus the Marauders – we outworked a very skilled Music City team.”
The Jr. Sun Devils began the tournament Nov. 4 with a game against the same Marauder team and lost 3-1, which made the finals even more satisfying. The next game against the Oak Park River Forest Huskies on Nov. 5 was a hard-fought contest as DYHA battled back from a 2-0 deficit and scored a late goal in the third period with 19 seconds left to win 4-3.
Defeating the Orland Park Vikings 5-2 later on Nov. 5 prepared the Jr. Sun Devils for the finals against the Marauders.
“Our boys were focused and ready to play for the title and pulled it out with a solid team effort,” said Shevalier. “Every line performed, generating many scoring chances and playing solid defense. It was a great boost to win that tournament. We learned that if you play the whole game, no AA team can beat us. We absolutely dominated the Music City Marauders in the final game.”
The DYHA 18U AA team is comprised of forwards Ryan Bonner, David Martin, Anthony Masanotti, Devin Most, Haden Shevalier, Evan Shupe, Jeffrey Solomon, Turner Stansbury and Joshua Tucker; defensemen Nick Hinshaw, Evan Montano, Brendan Nall, Jacob Nickerson, Trent Nietzel and Peter Schilletter; and goalies Kevin Church and Rosser. Shevalier is joined by assistant coach Jon Dunmar and team manager Steve Bonner.
Shevalier noted that the team doesn’t have any dominant standouts – just someone new stepping up and contributing each night.
“We have three solid lines, six good defensemen and two good goalies,” said Shevalier. “This is the first year that I have ever had so much size as well. I like our whole team. We play really well when we are moving forward, but we struggle when we are on our heels.”
Shevalier added that “penalty killing is usually the strongest part of our game. We like to force all over the ice.”
Moving forward into the holidays and then 2017, Shevalier said the team has very reachable goals and aspirations.
“The ceiling is very high for this team, but it is really up to the players on the team,” Shevalier said. “If they dedicate themselves to training away from the rink, we will be unstoppable. Our long-term goals are to make and play well at (USA Hockey Youth) Nationals. Short-term goal is to keep having a lot of fun.
“I really enjoy being around this team.”
Photos/The Church Family
— Matt Mackinder