Jr. Sun Devils post clean sweep of Tier II state championships
It was a straight sweep for the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils in the AAHA State Playdowns this season, with the organization taking home state championships in all three Tier II levels at 18U, 16U, and 14U.
The 18U AA Jr. Sun Devils were the first to win a championship. They overcame a loss to Mission AZ in the tournament’s opening game by winning their final two preliminary round games by a combined score of 12-0.
In the best-of-three state championship, the 18Us battled back from an early deficit against Mission to force overtime, where Kole Goldberg scored the game-winning goal. The Jr. Sun Devils rolled to a 6-1 win in Game 2 to complete the series sweep.
The 16U AA Jr. Sun Devils went undefeated on their march to a state championship. After a 3-0-0 group stage, DYHA registered back-to-back 2-1 wins against Arizona Hockey Union in the championship series. Jake Wreschner scored two power-play goals in the clincher, while goalie Antoine Pare made 20 saves.
The 14U AA Jr. Sun Devils also went unbeaten on their road to a title. After giving up just three total goals in the first three games of the Playdowns, DYHA won the first game of the championship series in overtime against CAHA 14U Scottsdale, thanks to a sudden-death goal from Michael Sandviken.
Goaltender George Serbin made 20 saves in game two to help the Jr. Sun Devils complete the sweep both in their 14U series and across all three Tier II divisions.
“It says we are doing some of the right things. Every year is going to be different and we had pretty solid teams this year,” DYHA director of hockey Brad McCaughey said, who oversaw the postseason success in his first year in charge of the Jr. Sun Devils program after taking over for Sean Whyte at the beginning of the season. McCaughey said Whyte helped set up the organization for success. Whyte also coached the 18U team to its title.
“While it’s great to happen to us, I understand that things can change, but it says we are doing a lot of the right stuff. We have good coaches and we had a great year. The future looks bright.”
It wasn’t just at the Tier II level where DYHA captured state championships either. Two Jr. Sun Devils teams met for an AZYHL 14U state championship as well, where the club’s 14U Combo knocked off its 14U Major squad 3-2 by scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to complete a come-from-behind win.
While the 14U Combo’s season ended with their AZYHL title, the other three DYHA teams will receive invitations to USA Hockey Youth Nationals thanks to their State Playdown triumphs.
“That’s the goal for all those teams,” McCaughey said. “Going to Nationals is the ultimate goal, so it’s super exciting. There’s nothing more we could have done at the Tier II level. It’s going to be a tough act to follow, but it’s very exciting, especially for those players who worked hard all season and got a big payoff.
“You go into every season hoping to win championships. Like I’ve always said, I’m not here to win championships. We are here to develop the kids and help them succeed in their life with whatever they want to do by teaching them the game of hockey and of course, you love to win championships.”
— Jack Harris
(March 20, 2018)