IHAAZ crowns seven at annual State Championships event
It was only fitting that a successful year for the Inline Hockey Association of Arizona (IHAAZ) ended with a thrilling State Championships tournament.
League tournament director Dean Koressel was pleased with how things played out at the state finals May 6-8 at Barney’s Family Sports Complex in Queen Creek.
“It went very well and was very exciting,” Koressel said. “All of the championship games were great to watch and we had a huge upset in the Midget division.”
The Yuma Blaze brought plenty of excitement to the tourney as they upset the AZ Royals for the Midget championship.
The Jr. Wildcats were double winners as they took home the crown in the 8UA division and 12U division. Prescott brought home two championships as well, winning the 8UB division and 10U division.
The AZ Royals rolled to the title in the 14UA division, while the Stealth took home the crown in the 14UB division.
Never has there been a more potent and lethal offensive lineup of snipers than what was on display at the state finals in the 8UA division. Before the tournament was over, the top forwards on the Jr. Wildcats, Havasu Dust Devils and Yuma Blaze teams would amass 77 points in just nine games.
Right out of the gate, the Jr. Wildcats really got into the rhythm of the state tournament by defeating all of their opponents in their three round-robin games by no less than four goals. The Jr. Wildcats’ Eli Shulman was simply unstoppable as he pumped in 33 goals and three assists for the tournament while their All-State defender, Aidan Blondel, was in command in the defensive zone.
The Dust Devils shocked the division by taking down the favorite for the finale, the Yuma Blaze, in the semifinal as Havasu forward Reed Rooke was unstoppable. He finished the weekend with 16 goals and five assists. The Jr. Wildcats always had an answer in the championship game as they took down the upset-minded Dust Devils 8-3.
The division championship really came down to two teams in the finale: the No. 1 seed Knighthawks after round-robin play and the Prescott Storm White, who easily handled the Yuma Blaze Red 8–0 in their semifinal game.
The championship game seemed to be going in the direction of the Knighthawks early on with Logan Chytka scoring to give his team an early 1-0 lead. But it was the Prescott Storm White that gained the momentum on Peyton Hobsons’ goal and assist in the first period that propelled Prescotts’ confidence going into the second period. With the score tied 3-3, again it was Hobsons’ goal late in the second period that pulled Prescott ahead for good while Prescott goalie Reece Curry stopped 15 shots to bring the Prescott Storm White the state championship trophy, beating the Knighthawks 4–3. He finished the tourney with a save percentage of 75 percent. Charlie D’Antonio of the Prescott Storm White was the top scorer in the tourney, tallying 10 goals and three assists.
It was a surprise early exit from the championship game by the Knighthawks, who had won every festival championship leading up to state finals, and who had the division’s top scorer, Zach Magby, and top goalie, C.J. Foster. But it was a jubilant Jr. Wildcats team, instead, that met the very confident Prescott Storm, who had sailed through round-robin with no defeats, in the finale.
The Jr. Wildcats lost their only game in round-robin to the Prescott Storm 6-2 and were looking for redemption. The Storm would not give the Jr. Wildcats any redemption, though, as Prescott’s top scoring ace, Wesley Amos, and former All-State goalie, Carter Robinson, simply buried the Wildcats with five goals before Wildcats knew what hit them, thumping the Jr. Wildcats 6-2. The real hero was Prescott goalie Dallin McShane who played outstanding between the pipes all tournament long, taking top goalie honors. He stopped 88.3 percent of the shots he faced. Amos led the division in points with 18 goals and five assists.
In what turned out to be the closest, toughest and most dramatic division in the entire tournament, three of the four teams tied for first place after round-robin play, with each team fashioning 2-1 records. So close were the teams that the second and third seeds – Yuma Blaze and Jr. Wildcats – had to find out what seed they were going in to semifinal play with on a coin toss.
The championship game was the tightest and most breathtaking of the entire tournament as both teams were tied 4-4 after regulation play expired. It was eventual tournament MVP Kelton Chadwick that put in the sudden death overtime game winner as All-State forward Hunter Paulsen made the outstanding pass against the boards 90 ticks into the OT that brought the entire arena to its feet and brought the state championship trophy back to Tucson after a thrilling 5-4 championship win over the Knighthawks.
Chadwick tallied 11 goals and four assists in the tourney to pave the way in the division. Sydnee Brunner of the Knighthawks came through with seven goals and three assists. Jose Gudina of the Blaze fashioned an 84.2 save percentage over the weekend.
The defending 2015 state champion AZ Royals White went into the state tournament with something to prove after surviving losses early in the season and having to deal with a rotating door of goalies coming and going. After settling on outstanding goalie Nathan TePaz, the AZ Royals White went about their business with their two All-State defenders, Luc Spinasanta and Skylar Miller, to shut down all the competition on their way to the state championship game. TePaz stopped 92.3 percent of the shots he faced in the tournament.
The Yuma Blaze, playing inspired hockey, took down last years’ 14UB state champion, AZ Royals Blue, 2-1 in semifinal play in a thriller. However, Yuma’s dream ended in the championship game as the AZ Royals White simply had too many weapons as well as a very talented and deep bench, topping the Blaze 6–1 to take the 2016 state trophy.
Ryan Bottrill paced the Royals with six goals and an assist and teammate Matt Gary came through with two goals and three assists.
Of all the divisions that played out over the five festival qualifiers, the 14UB division was the most undecided of any division as each festival produced a different winner. At the state championships, Team Stealth emerged from round-robin play unbeaten as their top scorers, Austin Clerry and eventual state tournament MVP Zack Cain, delivered the goods and Stealth goalie George Serbin was on fire. Clerry tallied nine goals and three assists, while Cain finished with two goals and four assists.
After escaping with a 3-2 win over the AZ Royals in round-robin play, the Stealth once again met the AZ Royals in the championship game with a Royals team that had a chip on their shoulder. But the Stealth had an answer every time the Royals seemed to gain momentum. In the end, it was the tough defense of the Stealth and outstanding goaltending by Serbin that ended any hope of a Royals victory, taking the state championship 5-2.
Serbin owned a save percentage of 86.8, while Michael Baltins of Havasu was the top scoring threat as he racked up 13 goals and eight assists in the tourney. Josh Dobbins of the Knighthawks finished with 12 goals and two assists.
After an extremely hard-fought battle last year to grab the state championship trophy, the AZ Royals were primed and ready for another run for the division trophy. What they probably did not realize was the impact that Yuma Blaze All-State forward Logan Estes and their extremely underrated goalie Rhett Teeter would make before the state tournament ended. Teeter wrapped up the weekend with an 81.3 save percentage and Estes struck for four goals and dished out eight assists.
Everything was going according to the script that the AZ Royals had written out – go undefeated in round-robin play (check), win the semifinal game in dominating fashion (check) and gain the No. 1 seed going into the championship game (check). With the Royals claiming four of the five All-State selections for the Midget division, there was nothing that could stop a championship repeat.
In the championship game after the Blaze put up early scores, Estes put a real hurt on the Royals with two goals late in the game that severely kinked the Royals’ confidence and momentum. Teeter finished the job by making three times more saves than Royals All-State goalie Garret Ruby and the Blaze recorded the biggest upset in IHAAZ history, winning 5-2.
Ruby stopped 78 percent of the shots he faced for the Royals. Josh Roof of the Royals scored 10 goals and dished out seven assists. Benjamin DiCori of the Blaze came through with six goals and three assists.
The All-State teams were selected prior to the state finals and a total of 36 players from seven divisions earned spots.
8UA: F Zayne Maragh, Yuma Blaze Black, 71 goals, 13 assists; F Eli Shulman, Jr. Wildcats, 51 goals, 11 assists; D Aiden Blondel, Jr. Wildcats, 14 goals, 5 assists; D Nicholas Lopez, Yuma Blaze Black, 3 goals, 3 assists; G Gavin Lopo, Prescott Storm Maroon, 249 saves, 75.9 save percentage.
8UB: F Nate Magby, Knighthawks, 24 goals, 12 assists; F Kilian Thompson, Knighthawks, 28 goals, 6 assists; D Charlie D’Antonio, Prescott Storm White, 22 goals, 12 assists; D Landon Fetty, Prescott Storm White, 14 goals, 5 assists; G Reece Curry, Prescott Storm White, 118 saves, 75.2 save percentage; G Sylvan Osman, Havasu Dust Devils, 148 saves, 76.3 save percentage.
10U: F Wesley Amos, Prescott Storm, 50 goals, 11 assists; F Zach Magby, Knighthawks, 32 goals, 12 assists; D Dominic Barber, Jr. Wildcats, 33 goals, 12 assists; D Zak Proud, Knighthawks, 21 goals, 9 assists; G CJ Foster, Knighthawks, 236 saves, 88.7 save percentage.
12U: F Justin VanDeberg, Yuma Blaze, 30 goals, 13 assists; F Hunter Paulsen, Jr. Wildcats, 23 goals, 15 assists; D Sydnee Brunner, Knighthawks, 23 goals, 10 assists; D Drew Brodfueher, Knighthawks, 11 goals, 5 assists; G Brenden Rizzo, Jr. Wildcats, 243 saves, 80.5 save percentage.
14UA: F Jake Dempsey, Yuma Blaze, 19 goals, 12 assists; F Max Chase, AZ Royals Blue, 21 goals, 4 assists; D Luc Spinasanta, AZ Royals White, 6 goals, 3 assists; D Skylar Miller, AZ Royals White, 5 goals, 3 assists; G Luke Yubeta, AZ Royals Blue, 209 saves, 82.9 save percentage.
14UB: F Mike Baltins, Havasu Dust Devils, 44 goals, 11 assists; F Ryan Koshiol, Stealth, 35 goals, 12 assists; D Sean McBride, AZ Royals 12U, 5 goals, 7 assists; D Colin Clough, AZ Royals 12U, 2 goals, 2 assists; G Brenden Rizzo, Havasu Dust Devils, 275 saves, 88.3 save percentage.
— Brian Lester