Mission AZ celebrates pair of state championships
Two teams within the Mission Arizona youth hockey program returned home to the club’s Phoenix rink earlier this month towing not only banners, but bragging rights for the next year.
Mission AZ’s Bantam Minor White and Pee Wee Minor Red teams captured titles at the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association State Championships recently.
“Both teams played consistently and really earned it,” said Jeremy Goltz, the executive director of Mission AZ and the head coach of the Pee Wee Red team. “We are very proud.”
The Bantam White team is coached by Scott Farber, as well as assistant Mark Cherwinski, power skating coach Crystal Roe and strength coach Brett Sutton. The roster includes forwards Ben Branaman, Dylan Cherwinski, Ricky Elmer, Luke Fain, Owen Gabriel, Matthew Gary, Madalyn Guertin, David Jaichner, Chase Jones, Alex Milne, Erich Norris, Max Vuk, Ryan Walsh and Chase Wilhelm; defensemen Luke Jones, Connor Manning and Bryce Nobles; and goalies Dylan Bonfiglio and Hayden Manning.
“This team started out the season on a bit of a rocky road – we had some inconsistency of effort and work ethic, but as the season progressed, we really started to develop some chemistry,” Farber said. “Some of the second-year Bantams really stepped up and took on leadership roles.
“It was really good to see the cohesiveness come together as the season went along. That’s what you always hope for and what you guide the kids toward, and it doesn’t always work out, but this year was special.”
Mission AZ’s Bantams swept their four games in the state playdown, capping off an impressive 10-game winning streak to end their season. On Feb. 23, they beat the Arizona Hockey Union Purple team 4-0 and two days later, skated past the Arizona Lady Coyotes 1-0. On Feb. 27, Mission secured a 4-1 triumph over AHU Black. In the Feb. 28 state championship game, they rolled to a 4-2 victory over the AHU Purple team.
“Our special teams really picked it up in the state tournament,” Farber said. “I think we had about five power-play goals, and we did a really good job of killing penalties. Those special teams were really key.”
The Pee Wee Red team is coached by Goltz, assistants Adam Brill, Cherwinski and Roe. Adrienne Schneidmiller is the team manager, and the roster includes forwards Michael Bird, Mason Brill, Wysin Carter, Hayden Cruz, Cameron Fetzer, Jacob Gallardo, Tyler Singpradith, Conner Stegen, Spencer Stenholm, Yuri Svetahor, Nick Thurman and Cannon Tominna; defensemen Gavin Bodway, Jacob Donegan, Payton Goltz, Brendan Kemp and John Randel; and goalies Andre Hammonds and Hannah Schneidmiller.
“You don’t think of consistency necessarily when you’re talking about 11- and 12-year-olds, but our Pee Wee team was by far among our most consistent performers all season long,” Adam Brill said. “They showed up every time – whether it was a practice, league game or tournament play. They showed up ready to go to work.”
Mission AZ’s Pee Wees won the state tournament with a 5-0-1 record and solid play for nearly a full week. On the first day of the five-day event, they topped the Chandler Jr. Coyotes 2-1. They skated to a 2-0 win over the VOSHA Bobcats the next day and upended AHU Purple 2-0 after that. On the second-to-last day, they secured a convincing 7-2 victory over the Jr. Sun Devils. On the tournament’s final day, they tied AHU White 2-2 and with everything on the line in the championship game, they beat the Bobcats again 4-0.
“We started to see that this team had the potential to do some big things probably midway through the season,” Brill said. “We played a lot of A and major teams, and we competed with them. We played some really solid teams at a tournament in Pittsburgh, and we tied the team that won the whole thing. That made us think that maybe we had an opportunity to do some good things.”
— Greg Ball