Yuma IHAAZ festival cops rave reviews; Prescott event up next
IHAAZ tournament director Nick Boyarsky calls the festival in Yuma a finely-tuned machine because of how well everything is run.
The Blaze has a unique system where every player and family in the program must pitch in for various roles at their home-hosted event.
“From that, you see a pride taken in their festival that is second to none,” Boyarsky said.
The hockey played over the second weekend in February in Yuma wasn’t bad either.
In the 8U division, it was the Wildcats that remained unbeaten in tournament play. The Royals showed that they have made more strides as the Wildcats only won 6-0 – the closest game between the two teams up to this point.
Prescott prevailed in the 10U division, which like 8U, features a tournament format. The Storm won 6-5 over Knighthawks Blue. Rylee Hobson scored with 3:44 left in the second to secure the win.
“This championship game has gotten tighter and tighter,” Boyarsky said. “It’s just a matter of time before the ever-improving Knighthawks Blue find a way to get those couple of goals they need to win one. I imagine this will be one of the more exciting games come the state finals.”
The Yuma Blaze and AZ Royals battled in the consolation game, with Nicholas Lopez scoring with a second remaining to lift Yuma to a victory.
Over in the 12U Division, Yuma is the lone unbeaten. The Blaze battled the Wildcats in the final and rolled to a 4-0 win.
The Royals and Renegades had quite a battle over the weekend, Kelzi Olson scored a game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Renegades to a 5-4 victory. Jayden Parea tallied the assist. The Renegades won despite playing up a division — they are a 10U team — and despite playing back-to-back games at the end of the festival.
Yuma is in great shape in the 14U division, sitting atop the standings with a six-point lead. But that doesn’t mean a championship is a guarantee.
The Wildcats have beaten Yuma once, winning 4-3 in January, but the Blaze owned the matchup this time, rolling to a 9-2 win. The Wildcats, though, were missing a key player or two.
The AZ Royals are the most improved team in 14U. Daniel Diaz has guided his team to a point where it could be a dark horse for the title.
In the Midget division, the AZ Royals White team remains the team to beat.
Head coach Marvin Simmons led his team through another perfect festival. The Royals White played the Royals Blue and Northern AZ Yeti at the festival and both games were close. Royals White won 4-1 over Royals Blue and 3-1 over the Yeti.
Nic Coppola led the offensive attack and goalie Nathan tePas rose to the occasion as well.
“The Yuma festival always creates some interesting results when you accompany home-court advantage for the Blaze teams,” Boyarsky said. “The Yuma floor is painted concrete, which takes some getting used to as far as skating and puck movement. Many times, the dominant team in a division will find the floor to be a challenge in Yuma, causing some normally not-close games to be a lot closer.”
The next festival is set for March 15-17 in Prescott. Team board member Freedom Nolan is looking forward to playing host to it.
She said preparations include a rink cleanup day and working with sponsors and vendors to create a great menu for the weekend.
As far as the actual game play goes, he enjoys having the chance to see different teams play.
“My favorite part of hosting would be seeing all our divisions play,” Nolan said. “While traveling, it’s not always possible to see everyone, but here at home, I can catch all of the games from Midget to 8U.”
— Brian Lester
(March 8, 2019)