Littleton, Hyland Hills win Midget AA states
Two Colorado Amateur Hockey Association state champions were crowned earlier this month as the Littleton Hawks’ 18U AA team won the title in its division, while the Hyland Hills Jaguars took home the 16U AA state championship.
The 18U tournament was held at Boulder Valley Ice in Superior and wrapped up on Dec. 13, and the 16U event, which was showcased at the Ice Centre at the Promenade in Westminster, ended two nights later.
For the Hawks, it marks their fifth straight 18U AA state title – something head coach Brian TenEyck says was an important goal to accomplish heading into the year.
“Our captains from last season reached out to our captains this year and basically said, ‘Don’t mess this up,’” TenEyck said. “We talked all season about protecting the legacy and we really came together as a team around Thanksgiving and started playing our game around that time.
“Our captains – co-captains Jake Wener and Caleb Vigil (both forwards) and assistants Ben Dicker (a defenseman) and Matt Reddy (a forward) – were never too overbearing and are the lead-by-example type.”
Wener, Vigil and Dicker are all returning players from the 2013-14 season, along with goaltender Jordan Kaschinske.
Littleton’s 1997 age group had been to the state finals as Pee Wees, Bantams and Midget Minors as the No. 1 seed each year, but never tasted success until this season.
“The championship game (a 5-2 win over the Arapahoe Warriors) may have been one of the best and most memorable Midget Major AA games I’ve witnessed,” said TenEyck. “It was fast, it was physical and not one kid on our bench smiled until Vigil scored the empty-netter with seven seconds left.
“You could just feel the pressure leave our bench, and that’s when we knew we could celebrate.”
In the championship win, forward Levi Drake recorded a goal and an assist, while forwards Tanner Gillis, Jack Kilkenny and Josh Yovich added a goal apiece. Defenseman Blake Bosick contributed a pair of assists, and goaltender Cam Bukes turned aside 17 shots fired his way.
With the triumph, the Hawks earn a berth to the USA Hockey National Championships; the Midget 18U AA division will compete from March 26-30 in Troy, Mich.
It’s the Hawks’ fifth straight trip to nationals. In their three previous appearances, they’ve reached the quarterfinals each time. This year, the goal is to advance further.
“Only about seven or eight of our kids are going to play high school hockey, so we’ll have a big part of our team still together before we go to nationals,” said TenEyck. “We’ll practice, scrimmage, play in some tournaments to get ready and we’ll also play some local AAA teams, like the Colorado Thunderbirds, who’ve already said they’ll play us.
“For us, though, preparation starts in the locker room. We’re really a family; every guy in there cares and supports each and every other guy and wants everyone else to succeed.”
Other members of the Hawks’ 18U AA team include: forwards Joe Dullea, Jacob Felsor, Danny Fessenden and Reid Goodman; and defensemen Skyler Budman, Ben Dicker, Michael Karas, Alec Taylor and Alec Weir.
Rick Adams coaches the team along with TenEyck.
In the 16U AA final, the Jaguars defeated the Denver Jr. Pioneers, 5-2, on home ice as forward Robert Harland scored two goals and an assist, while forwards Nick Hawkins and Alec Enroth each notched a goal and an assist.
Forward William Bostwick tallied the other Jaguars goal, and netminder Tyler Myers finished with 20 saves.
“Our goal from the start of the season has been to win nationals, but obviously you have to win states first and we did that,” Hyland Hills head coach Mike Driscoll said. “We talked in the locker room (after defeating DU) that winning states was just one goal and we have one more.
“We have guys who’ve been to nationals before, and they’ve been saying that it’s just another tournament. You can’t be nervous; it’s time to step up.”
The Midget Minor AA USA Hockey National Championships are slated for Plano, Texas, from March 26-30.
With both DU and Hyland Hills losing in the round-robin portion of the state tournament, a deciding extra game was needed. DU had topped Hyland Hills, 4-1, on Dec. 14, thereby necessitating the bonus game for all the marbles.
“All these kids know each other and some have been friends their whole lives,” said Driscoll. “We also had seven players back from last year, so they know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.
“Every player on this team has the willingness to do what it takes to win and to support their teammates. The camaraderie is great and our captains – Hawkins and assistants Hayden Reidle (a defenseman), Daniel Taggart (a forward/defenseman) and Harland – are some of the best I’ve ever had. This team is by far the closest I’ve ever had in my 17 years of coaching.”
And with just 13 skaters (eight forwards, five defensemen) and two goalies dotting the Hyland Hills roster, Driscoll said that only encouraged the players to fight harder for all they achieved.
“We went into the season knowing this is what we were going to have, and the kids knew that,” said Driscoll. “Even in the championship game, we shortened our bench and some guys didn’t see the ice in the third period, and they were cool with that.
“It just shows you these kids are in it for the team and have each other’s backs all the time. We made some changes and adapted, and it obviously worked well for us.”
Other members of the Jaguars’ 16U AA team include: forward Salvatore Pisciola; defensemen Austin Brodie, Zakariya Nameh and Caden Shunk; and goaltender Jaylen Arroyo. Stefan Fruhwirth, Cameron Jones and Adam Tybor all play forward and defense.
Tyler Bejarano, Brian Robles and Andy Enroth assist Driscoll behind the bench.
– Matt Mackinder