Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

DYHA Bantam AA team all about hard work, selfless play


Most youth hockey teams have those one or two standout players that make the team go.

The Desert Youth Hockey Association’s (DYHA) Bantam AA team has no such players.

And that’s just fine with the coaching staff.


“When it comes to team chemistry with this team, there are no egos and no cliques,” said DYHA head coach John Damyanovich. “The five new kids we brought on this year have fit in well and the team has been very welcoming and accepting of them. These kids do everything together and no one is ever left out. We don’t have any one superstar on the team and these kids all know that.

“They all play their roles and they know their roles well. They just play for each other and have fun doing it.”

Assistant coach Ernie Hicke said he has had college and junior scouts approach him about the Bantam AA team and was told by one scout that the team is “one of the most unselfish teams he’s seen in many years.”

“These kids just go out and work hard, and that includes both practices and games,” Hicke said. “They give 110-120 percent every time they take the ice and it’s been a very positive team for us this year. The kids listen when we ask them to do something and then they go do it. Just a great group of kids here.”

The Jr. Sun Devils’ Bantam AA team is comprised of forwards Nic DelliBovi, Clayton Garnier, Austin Gloyd, Jaidin Hicke, Brad Hughes (also plays defense), Cooper May, Carter Newlin, Tyler Ortega, Deric Prier, Eli Schreckengost, Jake Smaw and Ben Zucker; defensemen Spencer Craig, Logan Lee (also plays forward), Kellen Nickel, Dean Noonan, Brent Scott (also plays forward), Sam Stipe and Ryan Tillery; and goaltenders Kalia Howard and Tristan Konieczny. Joining Damyanovich and Hicke as coaches are Gary Aungst and Justin Aungst. The team manager is Whitney Tillery.

In mid-October, the Jr. Sun Devils made the trek to Boise, Idaho, to play in the Fall Face Off Tournament and came away victors with a 4-1 win over the heavily-favored Boise Jr. Steelheads in the championship final on Oct. 16.

“We lost the first game, but there was no turtling from our kids like you might see teams do when they lose the first game of a tournament,” Damyanovich said. “We beat the No. 1 seed (Kent Valley Selects, based outside of Seattle) 7-0 and then played our game in the finals and you see what happened.”

Last season playing as a Bantam A team, the Jr. Sun Devils had a “special team,” according to Damyanovich.

“I told the parents at the end of last year that I didn’t know what to expect this year because that team was a once-in-a-lifetime team,” he said. “Now we get into this year and it’s happening again. It doesn’t matter who we play, we keep working. Even when we are up 10-0, we switch the forwards to defense and then defense up front, or we have the players switch sticks or tell them they can’t shoot until you make three passes in the offensive zone. It doesn’t matter to the kids – they never quit and we don’t want them to quit.

“Some people may criticize us for doing it that way, but we don’t play down to other teams, they have to come to us. And if some teams knew the way we change things up when it’s 10-1, if we didn’t, some of these games might be 20-1.”

Both Damyanovich and Hicke reiterated that a state championship and trip to USA Hockey Youth Nationals is the end goal.

“I couldn’t be happier with this team,” Hicke said. “These kids just never stop working.”

Photo/John Craig/Desert Ice Photography

— Matt Mackinder

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