Some State Playdowns adversity was not enough to hold back the DYHA Jr. Sun Devils U18 AA during their run for a state championship.
Early defensive woes for the Jr. Devils were corrected just in time to help DYHA overcome a Game One finals loss to defeat Mission AZ U18 Red in three games to clinch a bid to USA Hockey’s U18 National Championships.
“Our team said all year that they were going to win a state championship,” head coach Jeff Shevalier said. “They sure delivered.”
The Jr. Devils opened the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association’s State Play Downs with a high-scoring victory over the Flagstaff Avalanche. Anthony Masanotti scored six goals on his own in the Jr. Devils’ only preliminary stage game, as the 8-6 win was enough to clinch a spot in the best-of-three final series.
DYHA jumped out to an early 4-1 lead over Mission in Game One, and at one point were outshooting the Peoria-based team 13-0. However, two late second period goals for Mission cut the Jr. Devils’ lead to just 4-3 entering the third period.
In the third period of Game One, Mission got two late breakaway goals to take the lead for the first time in the game. An empty netter clinched the Mission victory, as the Jr. Devils were forced to the brink of elimination with the 7-5 loss.
“I will take the blame (for game 1),” Shevalier admitted. “Our defense actually did exactly what I asked them to do and it didn’t work.”
After falling behind early in Game Two, the Jr. Devils recovered with two late first period goals and never looked back. Haden Shevalier tied the score at 1-1 with a shorthanded goal, before Ryan Bonner put DYHA ahead for good.
Haden Shevalier, Jeffrey Solomon and Masanotti each tacked on goals later in the game to help DYHA win 5-1 and force a decisive third and final game.
“The most impressive thing was that we were getting better the last two games,” Shevalier added.
Jeff Shevalier’s squad delivered their best play downs performance when it mattered most, jumping out to a 4-0 first period lead in their championship clinching game. Bonner scored twice in the first, and three times in the game, in addition to goals from Masanotti, Solomon, Evan Shupe, and Devin Most in the Jr. Devils’ 7-1 triumph.
The U18s will now head to East Lansing, Michigan, in April to compete in the USA Hockey National Championships, hoping to add another trophy to their postseason repertoire.
The U14 Combo Jr. Sun Devils finished an impressive season with the crown jewel of accomplishments, capturing the AZYHL League Championship in dominant fashion.
Playing all their games on a familiar sheet of ice at Oceanside Ice Arena, the Jr. Devils started their playoffs on the right foot by recording an 8-4 win over CAHA-Chandler.
“With how good of a group this team was, both skill and attitude wise, it felt like the cherry on top of a fun, successful, and growing year for these boys and girls,” assistant coach Matt Shott. “Seing how we won most of our games by over five goals, it felt like (we) were destined to win.”
Brendan Manning registered a hat trick, while Garrett Burroughs, Gavin Trudeau, Oliver Craft, Colin Ormsby, and Jonathan Ellwanger all tacked on goals of their own. Steven Noffke was also a crucial cog in goal, making 29 saves to help DYHA open the playoffs 1-0.
Head Coach Todd Collins’ side breezed through their final two preliminary round games to clinch a championship game bid, knocking off Flagstaff 7-1 and the Arizona Lady Coyotes 5-2.
Manning tacked on two more goals against Flagstaff, while Caden Surchick, Keaton Toenjes, Reid Slavicek, Ellwanger, and Burroughs also scored to support Zoe Manriquez’s 14 saves in net.
“I think each player has grown in their own way throughout the season, from attitude adjustments, to skill improvement,” Shott said. “This team, top to bottom, started the season dominant, continued to improve, and finished the season just as dominant.”
Against the Lady Coyotes, Ormsby scored two goals, Craft, Trudeau, and Surchik added one each, and Noffke made 13 saves to cap the Jr. Devils’ perfect group stage record of 3-0.
The title game was much of the same for the Jr. Devils, who were pitted in a rematch with CAHA-Chandler.
Manning scored an early goal to put DYHA ahead and the Jr. Devils never looked back. After Burroughs netted a late first period goal to double the U14’s lead, Craft, Ellwanger, Pessin, and Burroughs again all exploded for second period goals to stretch their lead to 6-0.
The third period saw DYHA score three more times to clinch a thoroughly deserved victory, and a triumphant league championship.
The title was a perfect ending to a near perfect season for the U14s, who reached several tournament title games and added more than a couple banners to the Oceanside Ice Arena rafters.
The U16 Jr. Sun Devils impressed in their AAHA State Playdowns appearance, getting all the way to a Game 3 in the finals.
The Jr. Sun Devils opened their tournament with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mission, getting a late goal from Zach Wayne in the 3rd period to begin their tournament in the win column.
Another close game was on tap in DYHA’s second preliminary round game, losing a tight game 2-1 to the CAHA Jr. Coyotes.
With a 1-1 record, the Jr. Devils faced a must-win third preliminary stage game against the Arizona Hockey Union Knights. After a Carson Masten opener had the game tied at 1-1, a late second period goal from Mason Parker was enough for the U16s, who used a strong defensive third period to reach the best-of-three finals series.
In game one, the CAHA Jr. Coyotes’ three second period goals proved to be too big an obstacle to overcome for the Jr. Devils, despite goals from Masten and Kole Goldberg in the 4-2 loss.
Goalie Tristan Hadley starred in the 3-2 game two overtime victory, making 34 saves and holding the Jr. Coyotes to just two goals. DYHA netted two regulation scores from Josh Plunkett and Parker, before Andrew Suan pounced on a rebound in overtime to put home the game winner, and force a decisive game three.
Despite falling behind 2-0 early in the third and final game of the series, the Jr. Devils responded with a third period comeback bid. Plunkett scored with just under five minutes to play to bring DYHA within a goal, but the Jr. Devils couldn’t tie the score despite generating multiple scoring chances in the final minutes.
The Jr. Coyotes took game three and the state title with the 2-1 win, but were forced to earn every inch of it by the hard-working U16 Jr. Sun Devils.
Like the other two DYHA State Playdowns participants, the U14 AA Jr. Sun Devils found themselves in the final series as well.
After a back-and-forth tournament opener against the CAHA Jr. Coyotes, the Jr. Devils fell to 0-1 when the Jr. Coyotes scored a buzzer-beating game winner to win 6-5.
However, head coach John Damyanovich’s team didn’t flinch in the final two preliminary stage games, responding with a 4-0 win over Mission and a 5-1 win over the CAHA-Chandler Jr. Coyotes.
The combined wins gave the Jr. Devils another crack at CAHA in the best-of-three Playdowns finals series.
In game one, a Jake Smaw first period goal kept DYHA in the game, as they trailed only 2-1 going into the third period. Despite getting nine shots on net in the final frame however, CAHA was able to hold off the DYHA comeback and force the Jr. Devils into a win-or-go-home game two.
DYHA goalie Tristan Konieczny starred in the second game, making 21 saves and limited the Jr. Coyotes attack to just a single goal.
Konieczny wasn’t the only hot goalie on the ice on the night though. CAHA goalie Jonas Hamrin stopped all 21 shots the Jr. Devils fired at him, shutting out DYHA to clinch the game and series for CAHA in a 1-0 win.
Despite the fantastic defensive effort from the Jr. Devils, who surrendered only four goals in their final four games of the Playdowns, their efforts fell just short of a state championship.
The U14s didn’t disappoint with their performances in the Playdowns, and helped make DYHA the only association in the state to have a team compete in all three Playdowns finals series.
All three U12 Jr. Sun Devil teams also competed in the AZYHL Playoffs, each in different divisions.
The U12 Combos earned a runners-up finish during their playoffs. Despite losing their opener to the Arizona Hockey Union-Purple Knights, the Jr. Devils bounced back with wins against the Arizona Lady Coyotes and Tucson.
A 2-0 win over the Lady Coyotes was highlighted by a 17 save shutout from Chase Ebeyer and goals from Justin Hutchinson and Taylor Swanson. Weston Eby lead the 9-2 win against Tucson offensively with a hat trick to go along with Delan Membrila’s two goals and single goals from Jack Myerthall, Matthew Garcia, Jaydin Faliciano, and Swanson.
In a title-game rematch against the AHU-Purple Knights, two DYHA goals weren’t enough, as they fell 4-2 to the Knights. However, the silver medals capped a great year for the Combos, who impressed in tournaments and scrimmages all season long.
The U12 04 team battled tough in their playoffs, playing in a series of close games throughout the week.
Goals from Nikolas Nacopoulos, Evan Kobley, and Brandon Sandmoen were almost enough to get the Jr. Devils a win against the VOSHA Bobcats in a 5-3 loss to begin the playoffs. DYHA bounced back in their second game, picking up a crucial 3-2 win over CAHA-Chandler to bring their playoff record to 1-1.
The 04s couldn’t get on the winning end of their last two games however, despite challenging CAHA U12 and CAHA Elite U11 in each contest, bringing their terrific season to a close in the playoffs’ group stage.
Much like the 04s, the U12 05 team’s results didn’t match the high level of play they put on display in the playoffs.
Goals from Carson Curry, Hayden Stott, and Ryan Jim weren’t enough for DYHA in their opener against Mission, a 6-3 loss. After falling to the AHU-Black Knights and CAHA Jr. Coyotes in their next two games, the Jr. Devils bounced back in their season finale.
Ben Vattis made 23 saves, while Marcello Lane and Jim scored in a 2-2 tie against Flagstaff, giving the Jr. Devils a high note to end their season.
The Jr. Sun Devils Squirt team also concluded their season in the U10 division of the AZYHL Playoffs.
DYHA got off to a good start in the playoffs, using a Micah Schreckengost shutout and two-goal performance from Wilson Gray to knock off the Arizona Hockey Union-Purple Knights U10 team 2-0.
The Jr. Devils came up just short in their second group stage game, a 5-3 loss against AHU-White. Alyssa Wilson scored two goals, Gray tallied one of his own, and Tucker Stott made 18 saves in the loss, but the Squirts record dropped to 1-1, forcing them into a must-win third preliminary stage game.
The Jr. Devils couldn’t overcome common rivals Mission in their final game, but finished a season that saw the team reach several tournament championship games with the same great effort they showed all year.
Congratulations to every player, coach, and family who put their hearts and souls into DYHA this season. Your commitment and effort showed in more ways than just on-ice results. We hope everybody has a great summer, and can’t wait for another great season of Jr. Sun Devil hockey next year. Until then, GO JR. DEVILS!