Quartet of schools capture AHSHA state championships
The buzzer sounded as four teams were awarded division championship in the Arizona High School Hockey Association (AHSHA) playoffs on Feb. 4 at the Ice Den Scottsdale.
Pinnacle claimed the Division 1 title, while Centennial won the D2 championship, Desert Vista the D3 crown and Chaparral secured the junior varsity title.
Pinnacle (pictured) won its title after a tough defensive matchup led to a 4-2 win over Notre Dame. It was also a defensive showcase for two of the top-ranked goalies in Arizona between Notre Dame’s Cameron Judge and Pinnacle’s Kevin Church.
“Our scoring came from our non-first line,” said Pinnacle coach Glenn Karlson. “All season, we realized our depth was deeper than any other team we played.”
The Pioneers’ game plan was to shut down the Saints’ top line and to move the puck efficiently to create opportunities for the offense capitalize on. Church finished the game with 30 saves and was awarded the game MVP. Church was given an honorable mention for the Division 1 All-State team.
Centennial defeated Horizon in the Division 2 championship by a score of 4-1. The Coyotes utilized their goalie, Darshan Manhas, to make crucial saves in big games down the stretch to propel their team into the championship.
“He is a true team player with nasty hands and in my opinion, one of the best players playing in high school sockey,” said Centennial coach Greg Vaughn. “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is a success. We had an unbelievable season and each and every one of those boys did their job and they deserved to be champions.”
Captain Declan George was awarded the game MVP and both Manhas and George were awarded spots on the All-State and All-Arizona teams.
In the D3 game, coach Ray Reed led Desert Vista over Shadow Ridge 3-2 to win its first championship under Reed.
“Most well-disciplined and dedicated teams I’ve ever coached,” said Reed.
The Thunder created longer passing opportunities and used these opportunities to hold control in the title game. Desert Vista held a one-goal lead heading into the final minutes of the game. After two separate penalties for the Thunder created a 5-on-3 advantage for Shadow Ridge, goalie Macy Eide stood tall.
”Macy was on a mission,” said Reed.
With a depleted team goalie corps, Eide held Shadow Ridge scoreless during the final minutes to secure the victory for her team and was awarded the game MVP.
For Chaparral, shutting out Mountain Ridge 3-0 meant the JV championship. The Firebirds team consists of players from four different schools, including one player who had been home-schooled. Many teams in AHSHA have students from multiple schools in order to form teams in the four different divisions.
In the title match, goalie Matt Diamond put on a defensive show as he held the Mountain Lions scoreless and was awarded the game MVP.
“We had several players that had never played organized hockey before the start of the season and they all flourished as the season wore on,” said Chaparral coach Chad Hampton. “Diamond is not only a very talented goaltender, but he is a good kid and would help the less experienced goalies on our team with tips and tricks on how to play the position and would help the players in front of him by communicating with them constantly.”
With all four division championships completed, many teams will be rooting for Pinnacle as the Pioneers now advance to the USA Hockey High School Nationals in Cleveland starting March 30.
— Mikhial Tsatskin