Arvada native, Thunderbirds standout Scarafoni makes plans for ’23-24 with Anchorage NAHL tender
Moving on to junior hockey has been a long time coming for Arvada native AJ Scarafoni.
Playing this season for the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 18U AAA team, Scarafoni recently signed an NAHL tender to play next season for the Anchorage Wolverines.
“I met the director of scouting for Anchorage while I was attending the USHL Combine in 2021,” explained Scarafoni. “He was coaching the team I was rostered on and we made a great connection. They evaluated my play over the next few years and reached out with some interest. The Anchorage staff watched live-stream games and in-person showcases and they liked what they saw.
“Knowing the NAHL sends so many kids to college hockey, that is a deciding factor for me. I want to play hockey at a higher level and I hope to end up on an NCAA Division I team and play at college. It may take me a year or two to make it there, but my intentions are to end up playing college hockey.”
According to Scarafoni, there is a lot to like about heading up to Alaska.
“What appeals to me about the team is the community support that Anchorage has, and the fact that it seems like a great city to be in,” he said. “I will be graduating in May and I am looking forward to leaving home and joining the team. I thought about leaving last year, but it didn’t happen, and I was able to spend my senior year with my classmates and my family. I think the timing couldn’t be better.”
Scarafoni said this season has been “a bit of a rollercoaster” with the Thunderbirds.
“We had a few key players leave our team and several new faces join our locker room,” Scarafoni said. “The trips we have gone on this year have helped the team bond and learn to trust each other, on and off the ice. We seem to be finding our rhythm as the season is winding down. On a personal level, playing 18U AAA hockey, I am being exposed to bigger, stronger, and older players. I have had to keep up with that talent, and it has pushed me to work harder and be a leader.
“This year playing with the 18U AAA T-Birds, my team has traveled 10 times out of state. Those trips are an amazing part of the journey and they create a bond with the guys on the team, traveling on planes, buses, etcetera. it is a special time and I anticipate the junior season next year to be very similar in that aspect. The coaches I have this year are preparing me for the situations and physical level I will experience in juniors.”
Back home, Scarafoni started off at the age of three playing Mites for the Arvada Hockey Association. After his second year of Bantam AA with Arvada, he made the jump to AAA hockey with the 15O Thunderbirds.
“During my time at Arvada, I was on fantastic teams and lucky enough to win many state titles and many tournaments, including the Colorado Avalanche International Qualifier,” said Scarafoni. “I was part of the Jr. Avalanche team in 2018 who had the great opportunity to play in Finland and Sweden in the Nordic Hockey Trophy International Tournament. During my time at Arvada, I was fortunate to have my father Marcus Scarafoni as my head coach. He helped push my skill set and constantly reminds me that hard work and dedication are the tools that will get me to a higher level of hockey. Coaches who have impacted me so far in my career are my father and several of the Thunderbirds coaches, especially this year’s coach Phil Patenaude.”
Going forward, Scarafoni has reachable goals, on the ice and in the classroom.
“Graduating in the top of my class with a 4.417 GPA is my first goal, and I have worked hard to keep that GPA and want to continue pushing at school,” said Scarafoni. “The short-term goal is to make the final roster in the NAHL for the Anchorage Wolverines and continue to get noticed in the USHL.”
— Matt Mackinder
(February 8, 2023)