Giving thanks to the AHU Mite to Midget Class of 2016
Hockey is a game of passion, a game of desire, and often times, a game of attrition.
To make it through a practice, a game, and a season, it takes guts and something burning deep within each and every hockey player. For some, this passion runs so deep that it goes on for seasons and for those surrounding these special players, it is a joy to see.
The Arizona Hockey Union (AHU) has the pleasure this season of inducting seven fantastic young men into their very special Mite to Midget Loyalty Club Class of 2016. Not only have these players overcome countless obstacles over the years, but they have done so with the AHU from Mites to Midgets. Most of the stories start off similar – a little boy showing interest in hockey, puts on a pair of skates, touches the ice and falls in love with the sport.
The details of each player’s ascension through the ranks differ. However, there are several common elements. Lasting friendships, a supportive family, great coaching, everlasting memories from road trips and of course, heartbreaking losses and glorious victories.
Comprising the Class of 2016 is Parker Culbert, Zach Evahnenko, Chandler Manbeck, Jacob Membrila, Carsen Welch, Luke Yubeta and Zac Yurkanin. The AHU is extremely proud of these young men and are happy that their entire hockey career thus far has been with the same organization.
The highlight for Parker was winning the Bantam Tier II state championship in 2016 and traveling to Charlotte, N.C., and participating in the USA Hockey Youth Nationals.
Zach has played in numerous tournaments. One of his favorite memories included winning the Thanksgiving Shootout in Squirts that included an 11-round shootout, the Labor Day, Turkey Shootout and Coyote Cup in Pee Wee and then the state championship in Bantams.
Chandler participated in the first “Kids First” at Gilbert Polar Ice and his love for the game has never stopped. The AHU organization, his coaches, his hockey family and his teammates have helped shape him into the young man that he has become and his parents will be forever grateful.
Jacob started his career as a skater in the Wild West House League at Polar Ice Chandler. He played out for one full season, and then it happened. As the team was dressing for a game, the regular goalie decided he didn’t want to play in net that game. Jake volunteered to put on the pads, and that was it – he’d found his special purpose. From that day on, Jake was a goalie.
During his first session, Carsen looked through the glass on the boards to see his parents watching him. He immediately made a beeline for the door to get off the ice. His parents were wondering if he was OK, he looked at each of them intently and said, “Mom and dad, I love you. Thank you. I love hockey,” and he turned around and went back to the ice. He has played hockey ever since.
Luke has two favorite hockey memories. The first was traveling to Fargo, N.D., for the Fargo Squirt Invitational tournament where he traded well over 100 pins with other players. The second was playing the Flagstaff Northstars in the Thanksgiving Shootout where he ended up scoring the game-winning goal in an 11-player shootout to secure the championship banner.
Zac went to his first hockey game in 2008 when trying to find a sport he liked and immediately was drawn to hockey. Zac still has the broken hockey stick that Nick Boynton (a Phoenix Coyotes player at the time) had given to him coming off the ice after a game, further fueling his passion for the sport.
— Jason Prentice