Warriors’ 12U A team places second at Silver Stick Finals
Even before the New Mexico Warriors 12U A team traveled to Canada for the International Silver Stick Finals in early January, head coach Brian Barnes already saw the 2015-16 season as a success.
Throw in the fact that the Warriors took second out of 16 teams in Pelham, Ont., and Barnes can barely contain his excitement.
“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” said Barnes. “No Warrior team has ever won a Silver Stick Regional tournament and very few teams from New Mexico have ever won. Second place is big for them. All the hard work they’ve put in is incredible. We were the only American team in the finals of the tournament and we came out of the strongest pool there. We’ve got kids from Santa Fe and Los Alamos, traveling all the way down here for practice twice a week.
“I could not be more proud of our boys with their play and the way they represented New Mexico hockey.”
The Warriors are a select team made up of players from Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. The team tries to rotate practices among the different ice surfaces across New Mexico.
For the players, getting a chance to play in the land where hockey is almost like a religion is a treat many thought they would never experience.
During the trip, the team also had a chance to visit the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto (pictured above).
Defeating Team Wyoming for the Rocky Mountain District regional crown back in November in Westminster, Colo., Barnes said not only did the championship elevate the Warriors’ program, but so did the rest of the games at the event where the team went undefeated.
“We have a very small pool of kids from New Mexico that play hockey and to go up and compete and win while playing very tough Colorado competition validates our program,” said Barnes. “That lets us know that we are doing the right thing in our philosophy and the way we are coaching these kids. For hockey in New Mexico, it was a huge thing. We have a small pool of players in the New Mexico area and to go up to Colorado, it’s a huge sport there with lots of kids playing, a lot of kids to choose from and the competition is real tough, so for these little desert rats to go up there and win against Colorado teams is huge.”
The Warriors’ 12U A squad includes forwards Coulter Barnes, Conner Cook, Andrew Jeffrey, Luc Kibodeaux, Jack Schwarz, Sebastian Styrc, Liam Sutton, Kieran Terrel and Charlie Young; defensemen Zane Irion, Scott MacGillivray, Shay Nolen and Jonathan Onken; and goalies Ethan Gailushas and Mathias Sizov.
“This group of kids is so humble and hard-working,” said Barnes. “They are great together on and off the ice. They all look out for each other and in a game situation, you can tell they are playing for the team. Often, you coach a group of individuals and have to focus on passing, sharing, working together, but that is not the case with this group. I have some very talented players who are fantastic at cycling the puck, taking their time and working to make things happen.”
Back in October at the CAN/AM Challenge Cup tournament in Las Vegas, the Warriors received the Fair Play Award for the fewest penalty minutes at the event.
“I also had several coaches come up to me at Silver Stick and compliment the team on their sportsmanship and composure,” Barnes said. “That, to me, is a win even if we had lost on the scoreboard. I am very proud to coach each one of those kids.”
— Matt Mackinder