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Jr. Sun Devils’ 18U team ventures to Canada, brings home championship banner

 

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The DYHA Jr. Sun Devils’ 18U team traveled north of the border to wrap up 2018, winning the Richmond International Bantam Midget Hockey Tournament just outside of Vancouver on New Year’s Eve.

What made this tournament win impressive is that the squad had a depleted lineup, and still went undefeated with a 7-0 mark at the event, defeating the Alaska-based Valley Thunder 5-2 in the championship final on Dec. 31.

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“The players that did play that weekend really had a great work ethic and positive attitude,” said DYHA 18U coach Sean Whyte. “We were given a difficult schedule and flagged in our first game as a team that takes a bunch of penalties. This was due to a referee that called 62 minutes on our team and 67 minutes on our opponent. I think the next three games, we didn’t have more than 14 minutes total. They stayed very disciplined and focused on our objectives.

“We had a few key players out of the lineup due to injuries, and the rest of the team really stepped up their game. Many were completely exhausted, especially considering we played 20-minute periods. Every player showed grit and determination.”

A native Canadian (Sudbury, Ont.), Whyte said capturing a tournament championship on his home soil just added the icing on the cake.

“I’m proud of my teams whenever they win a championship but winning one in Canada does add a little sweeter taste to it,” said Whyte. “It is more special for me that they won in Canada, proving they can compete at that level and that hockey in Arizona is good quality. Most importantly, it’s a matter of winning with respect and integrity.”

In assessing the season so far, Whyte said one word comes to mind when he thinks of the 18U team: brotherhood.

“This team has really bonded, and they all have each other’s backs,” Whyte said. “They have bought into the team concept and know that each one of them must do their part in order for the team to succeed. The chemistry on this team is very solid. We have had some down times where we weren’t completely gelling, but when they realize this and refocus their energy, they are a really fun team to coach and watch.”

The Jr. Sun Devils’ 18U team is comprised of forwards Kyle Avila, Ethan Briggs, Tristan Cortesi, Kole Goldberg, Carson Masten, Tyler McCaughey, Derek Nelson (also plays defense), Mason Parker, Josh Plunkett, Donny Poulios, Skyler Sanchez and Jacob “Buzzy” Schneider; defensemen Anthony Harrison, Mitchell Karpes, Evan Lastine, Jack Merrill, Tyler Nagy and Justin Sturm; and goaltenders Antoine Pare and Jarrod Wolfert.

Whyte is joined by assistant coaches Mike Goldberg, Brad McCaughey, Wes Parker, Jimmy Poulios and Will Owens. The team manager is Kim Goldberg.

Overall, Whyte said his team is a balanced unit that could see several players move up the hockey ladder next season.

“Of the 2000 birth year players on our team, I think any of them could go play ACHA or juniors next year if they really wanted to,” said Whyte. “The ‘01s on the team are equally capable, but some still have another year of high school. Every player on our team scored at least one goal in British Columbia this past tournament. They all contributed and worked hard.”

Now back home in Tempe, what’s next for the Jr. Sun Devils?

“Their expectations will be to win states and represent Arizona at nationals again this year,” Whyte said. “The coaches are merely working on the preparation for them to accomplish this goal.”

— Matt Mackinder

(Jan. 22, 2019)