Six state champions crowned as IHAAZ caps another stellar festival season
Nearly 20 Inline Hockey Association of Arizona (IHAAZ) state finals have been played in the history of the league and there is little doubt the 2017 edition of the championship tournament ranks right up there with the best of them.
The action on the floor was thrilling and the Knighthawks claimed two titles, winning the 10U crown and the 14U B championship as well.
The AZ Royals also picked up two championships, winning the 14U A crown and the Midget division championship. The Prescott Storm claimed the 8U title and the Yuma Blaze soared to the championship in the 12U division.
In addition to the tremendous play the tournament offered up to fans, the Arizona Coyotes provided an interactive experience for the fans, while Skills Champions Jerseys were awarded by Grasshopper Athletic Team Apparel. Players also received custom shirts made by Phat Teez.
The memories made over the weekend will last a lifetime and it’s worth taking time look back on the action that unfolded at the Barney Family Sports Complex in Queen Creek.
The Knighthawks and Storm were the two best teams all season, with both teams going undefeated against every other team in the league. The Storm had never lost to the Knighthawks either, but that changed in the round-robin portion of the tourney as the Knighthawks edged Prescott 3-2.
Both teams went on to win their semifinal games, setting up a showdown for the title. Prescott went into the final hungry for revenge and got it, rolling to a 9-4 victory over the Knighthawks.
Eli Simpson paved the way with six goals in the title game and earned MVP honors. Simpson scored 11 goals in all in the tourney. Zach Turner was tabbed the top goalie, racking up 23 saves, and Hunter Matthews of the Knighthawks was the top offensive player after finishing the weekend with 10 goals. Teammate Landon Jans earned top playmaker honors. Jans came through with eight goals and four assists.
No championship was more competitive than the battle for the 10U crown, which pitted the Knighthawks against the Jr. Wildcats. The two teams tied each other in round robin play and the Knighthawks went into the final as the top seed.
But the Jr. Wildcats had the lead with 22 seconds left in regulation, clinging to a 4-3 advantage, and they appeared to be on their way to the title. Gage Woolford tied the score at 4-4 off an assist by Addison Nolfsinger as the game went into overtime.
One minute into OT, Faith Dababneh scored to lift the Knighthawks to the 5-4 come-from-behind win. Dababneh earned MVP honors, scoring a goal and dishing out four assists, and Jonathan Pool of Yuma was the top goalie. He came through with 36 saves in the tourney.
Eli Shulman was the top offensive player, scoring 19 goals, and Brandon Gorzynski was named the top playmaker after tallying 11 goals and four assists.
This division was the one the spotlight was on right out of the gate at the state finals as it featured three great teams fighting for spots in the championship game. A year ago, the Jr. Wildcats won the crown in overtime and it looked like perhaps they would win again this year.
In the end, it was the Knighthawks and Yuma Blaze that met for the championship. The Blaze lost to the Knighthawks earlier in the tournament but used great defense and a stellar performance by MVP Justin VanDeberg to secure a 5-1 victory. VanDeberg scored six goals and dished out three assists in the tournament.
C.J. Foster of the Knighthawks earned top goalie honors, racking up 59 saves, and Wesley Amos of the Prescott Storm was the top offensive player, finishing with 13 goals and six assists. Ryan Gorzynski of the Knighthawks was named the top playmaker, scoring seven goals and dishing out one assist.
14U A Division
When round robin play began, it looked like a safe bet the AZ Royals and Yuma Blaze would play for the championship.
That turned out to be the case as both teams went unbeaten in pool play to punch tickets to the final. The AZ Royals dominated the championship game, playing well in all phases of the game. Dylan Sharkey gave up just one goal and the Royals’ offense was clicking on all cylinders in a 7-1 victory. The Royals capitalized on the fact that they had a team with a strong cast of second-year 12U players.
Matt Gross of the AZ Royals was named the MVP, tallying seven goals and four assists, and Sharkey was tabbed as the top goalie, making 17 saves. VanDeberg of the Blaze was named the top offensive player, scoring eight goals and dishing out an assist, and D.J. Oldham of the Royals was the top playmaker, finishing with three goals and two assists.
14U B Division
The biggest surprise of the tournament occurred in this division as the Knighthawks overcame two tough losses in pool play to win the championship. They lost 8-0 to the Jr. Wildcats and then lost to the Blaze as well.
But rather than fold, the Knighthawks battled back and punched a ticket to the final with a 4-0 win over tourney favorite Havasu.
That set up a second meeting with the Jr. Wildcats and the Knighthawks, behind unbelievable play by Tatum Proud, earned a 6-3 victory. Proud became the first player in league history to win top goalie and MVP honors. Proud finished with 76 saves in goal.
Dominik Barber of the Jr. Wildcats was the top offensive player and Kelton Chadwick of the Jr. Wildcats was named the top playmaker. Barber scored five goals and dished out two assists while Chadwick finished with eight goals and six assists.
The AZ Royals White didn’t win a title at any of the festivals during the regular season and it seemed like their fate wasn’t going to change in the state finals.
Yet, they rose to the occasion when it mattered most to claim the championship, dominating nearly every team in their path on its way to the title. The only exception was a 2-2 tie with the AZ Royals Blue.
Nathan TePas turned in a stellar performance in goal, the kind every goalie hopes to have in a big setting, and MVP Carson Welch stepped up his game as well to pace the AZ Royals White to the championship. The Blaze went into the tourney as the reigning champs of the Midget division and seemed confident they could repeat as champs.
The AZ Royals White were ready for the challenge, though, thanks in large part to TePas, who shut down one of the league’s top scoring threats in Logan Estes. The AZ Royals White dominated on both ends of the floor to pick up a 5-1 win in the final.
Welch scored a goal and dished out six assists while teammate Cody Case finished the weekend tied for the division-lead in scoring in the tourney, tallying five goals and two assists.
TePas racked up 61 saves in the tourney, fashioning a save percent of nearly 90 percent, as he earned top goalie honors.
Keagan Lamb of the Prescott Storm managed to earn top offensive player honors, scoring five goals and two assists and Estes was the top playmaker of the tournament. Estes scored twice and dished out three assists for the Blaze.
The all-state selections were picked prior to the start of the tournament. A total of 30 players were selected from the six divisions. Brandon Gorzynski was named the top playmaker with 24 assists and Tatum Proud led the way in saves with 473.
8U: F Nicholas Lopez, Yuma Blaze, 37 goals; 10 assists; F Nate Magby, Knighthawks, 29 goals, 12 assists; D Charlie D’Antonio, Prescott Storm, 18 goals, 9 assists; D Kelzi Olson, Prescott Storm, 3 goals, 11 assists; G Dylan Foster, Knighthawks, 166 saves, .765 save percentage
10U: F Brandon Gorzynski, Knighthawks, 48 goals, 24 assists; F Eli Shulman, Jr. Wildcats, 67 goals, 11 assists; D Faith Debabneh, Knighthawks, 13 goals, 6 assists; D Kirsten Kacynski, Jr. Wildcats, 5 goals, 7 assists; G Jonathan Pool, Yuma Blaze, 135 saves, .799 save percentage
12U: F Dominik Barber, Jr. Wildcats, 38 goals, 8 assists; F Justin VanDeberg, Yuma Blaze, 36 goals, 8 assists; D Jackson Gebhart, Yuma Blaze, 5 goals, 4 assists; D Brandon Ott, Yuma Blaze, 15 goals, 10 assists; G C.J. Foster, 201 saves, .871 save percentage
14U (First Team): F Clayton Garnier, Havasu Dust Devils, 17 goals, 5 assists; F DJ Oldham, AZ Royals, 22 goals, 12 assists; D Brad Carpenter, AZ Royals, 7 goals, 8 assists; D Sean McBride, AZ Royals, 5 goals, 15 assists; G Dylan Sharkey, AZ Royals, 169 saves, .849 save percentage
14U (Second Team): F Justin VanDeberg, Yuma Blaze, 29 goals, 15 assists; F Ian Torp, Prescott Storm, 22 goals, 4 assists; D Koryn Kaczynski, Jr. Wildcats, 3 goals, 4 assists; D John Bomberg, Knighthawks, 9 goals, 5 assists; G Brendan Rizzo, Havasu Dust Devils, 362 saves, .823 save percentage
Midget Division: F Logan Estes, Yuma Blaze, 16 goals, 11 assists; F Keegan Lamb, Prescott Storm, 26 goals, 9 assists; D Luc Spinasanta, AZ Royals White, 3 goals, 11 assists; D Miguel Cazares, Yuma Blaze, 4 goals, 5 assists; G Garrett Ruby, AZ Royals Blue, 161 saves, .931 save percentage
— Brian Lester