Hawks’ Bantam AA team off to nationals, again
Littleton Hockey Association’s Bantam AA team is off to the USA Hockey Tier II National Championships.
The Hawks punched their ticket to the dance after celebrating the championship in its division at this year’s Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) Tier II State Tournament, which was held earlier this month at Littleton’s South Suburban Ice Arena.
Littleton went 3-0 at states to capture the championship, including a 2-1 victory over the Arapahoe Warriors in the finale.
Forward Spencer Lintonsmith and defenseman Jack Thornton lit the lamp for the Hawks in the title game, and goaltender Zach Stern turned aside 27 shots.
The berth to nationals – this year’s Bantam AA event will be showcased from March 26-30 in Salt Lake City – marks a return trip for the Littleton club.
“We have a great group of young men, plus four returners (Thornton, Connor Kilkenny, Bradley Stieduhar and Camdyn Wood) who really stepped up and took charge of the team,” said Hawks head coach Nick Combs. “They wanted to win state and have a repeat to nationals.”
Boasting a 37-15-5 record heading into nationals, Littleton bested the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 13U team at its own Thanksgiving Weekend tournament which snowballed into an impressive 16-game winning streak.
That, Combs said, set the tone for the rest of the season.
“We’ve come a long ways since September, and that can be attributed to all 17 of the guys buying in, putting in the hard work and battling together,” said the coach.
Other members of the Littleton squad include forwards Blake Benson, Josh Cox, Kayden Dormer, Drew Eickelman, Keaton Foy and Jared Goodman; defensemen Jake Eickelman, Jared Klemm, David O’Connell and Matthieu Wuth; and goaltender Marco Sandoval.
Kevin Alpert, Phil Patenaude and Payam Sami assist Combs behind the bench. Dede Cox and Anne Kilkenny are the team’s managers.
“The chemistry and bond these boys have, both on and off the ice, is amazing and definitely has helped us to get to this point,” said Combs. “It’s a true family environment in that room.”
Which makes earning another invite to nationals that much more special, especially for those who got to taste the experience a year ago.
“It means a lot to me as an individual, to our team as a group, and to the program as a whole,” said Combs. “Though we didn’t win state last year, we had a good enough season to go to nationals, so winning state this year and getting to go back is a huge accomplishment on many levels – one many people are excited about, but especially me and my four returners.”
Attention to detail, says Combs, will define his club’s success in Salt Lake City.
“We just want to continue to develop and play our game,” said the coach. “We want to make sure we take care of the little things.
“That’s been our theme this season: Take care of the little things because they add up to the big things.”
Midget AA Champs to Nationals
Crowned CAHA state champions in their respective divisions back in December, Littleton’s 18U AA team will compete at nationals in Troy, Mich., while the Hyland Hills Jaguars’ 16U AA club will compete in Dallas. Both events will run from March 26-30.
– Brian McDonough