Littleton again emerges as CAHA 18U AA state champions
The late Major League Baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
For the Littleton Hawks 18U AA team, winning the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association state championship has become somewhat routine, as the Hawks took their sixth straight title on Dec. 13 with a two-game sweep of the Evolution Elite Hockey Academy at the Big Bear Ice Arena in Denver.
In the deciding contest, Littleton defeated Evolution 5-1 after a 3-1 win the prior afternoon.
Littleton head coach Brian TenEyck admitted that winning a state title for his group was something he thought about, but knew taking the crown would be no easy task.
“Evolution is a tough team and they have a lot of pretty good players over there,” said TenEyck. “For us, this is a year that we’ve kind of loaded up and want to do something special. To win a state championship, it never gets old and we’re definitely excited and thrilled to accomplish it again this season. It always feels great.”
TenEyck explained that even with injuries to key forwards Jake Dosen, Timmy Starr and Ben Rollison, his team still found a way to bring home more hardware.
“For the state championship, instead of running four lines, we ran three,” TenEyck explained. “We haven’t run a full practice in about three or four weeks, but we had three players step up and elevate their game that to be honest, prior to Thanksgiving, were really just settling into a hole. Those players – forwards Jake Felser, Troy Ciccarelli and Noah Hernandez – just energized our lineup. The energy they brought, the grittiness, they did more than just fill their role. They pushed the other two lines to perform.”
In the title game against Evolution, Derek Nead scored once and added two assists, John Newman, Starr, Reid Goodman and Felser all scored to back Chad Duran’s 17-save performance in goal.
The only Evolution player to beat Duran was Martins Vilmaris midway through the second on a goal that tied the game 1-1 at that point. Danil Timchenko made 26 saves in the Evolution net.
All season long, TenEyck mentioned that one of the key components to the Hawks, who returned several players from the 2014-15 season, was unbelievable team chemistry.
“We have a solid record when it comes to wins and losses, but this year’s team is a bit different than teams in the past in that they find ways to win games,” said TenEyck. “Whoever we play, our two goalies, our defensemen and our four forward lines, they find a way to go to work. Our ‘D’ core this year is arguably our strongest as far as grit and skill-wise. As a whole, they’re all solid and I don’t know that we’ve been outshot this season.”
The 2015-16 Hawks are comprised of forwards Ciccarelli, Dosen, Levi Drake, Felser, Tanner Gillis, Goodman, Hernandez, Jack Kilkenny, Ryan Lindemann, Nead, Rollison and Starr; defensemen Blake Bosick, Michael Karas, Newman, Alec Taylor, Cody Taylor and Alec Weir; and goalies Duran and Tanner Munn. TenEyck is assisted by Rick Adams, Kyle Obuhanick and Phil Patenaude.
Looking ahead, the Hawks will play out their schedule in the Central States Development Hockey League, as well as compete in tournaments against AAA teams to prepare for the USA Hockey Midget Major Tier II National Tournament, which runs March 31-April 4 in Amherst, N.Y.
“It’s tough to say what to expect at nationals because we really don’t have a clue at this point,” TenEyck said. “What we saw last year at nationals was nothing but excellent competition. When you go into a situation where one game is the difference between advancing or not, you never know. The Midget Major programs across the U.S. are strong and we have no doubt we’re going to face some very stiff competition at nationals.”
— Matt Mackinder