More than a month into the 2017-18 season, DYHA Jr. Sun Devils teams are starting to move into a busy swing of the year.
Last week, three DYHA teams travelled to Michigan to compete. This coming weekend, another chunk of teams will take part in the local Icebreaker Invitational. As the temperatures outside cool, the hockey season is beginning to heat up.
The 16U 2002 squad were one of the DYHA teams that made the trip north last weekend to The Flat Water tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan. John Damyonovich’s made a run to the event’s semi-final after going 2-0-1 in round robin play.
In the semi-final, the Jr. Devils had a rematch with the Michigan Ice Hawks, a team the U16 ‘02s had beaten a day earlier. In the knockout game however, Michigan found an overtime winner to snag a dramatic 4-3 win over DYHA.
“We controlled the play in the semi-final, but unfortunately there were three defensive positioning moments that allowed them to score three goals and get it into overtime,” co-head coach Gary Aungst said.
Despite the loss though, the Midgets took a big step forward in their development this season thanks to their trip. Both the competition and environment, which included the Jr. Devils playing its semi-final at the University of Michigan’s NCAA Division 1 venue, Yost Arena, helped them make the trip a beneficial one.
“Like every team this time of the year, there are certainly some positives and some things we need to get back on the ice to clean up,” Aungst said. “We are learning the kind of team that we are. We are learning what we need to do to be successful.”
Both 12U Jr. Sun Devils teams were also in Ann Arbor over the weekend. The 12U Major team had success in the round robin, winning twice to earn a spot in the semi-final game.
In the semi-final, Jack Myerthall scored a second period goal to tie the score at 1-1 with the Novi IceCats. But it was Novi that found a late goal in the third period to steal a 2-1 win over DYHA.
“I was very proud of the way the team competed,” coach Brad McCaughey said. “The boys battled hard to tie the game but we came up short. Our ‘Compete Level’ as a team has not been that strong this year and I think the team really turned a corner in this tournament.”
The 12U Combo squad also battled over the weekend. Despite losing each of its round robin games, the team got goals from Luke Smaw and Riley Langford during the first three contests of the tournament, and put in valiant effort against quality competition.
All the teams that went to Michigan were able to grow, thanks to the different variety of teams they faced.
“To get away and play other teams, especially teams that are from hockey rich environments – like Chicago, Michigan and Minnesota – it almost helps our kids understand hockey elsewhere around the United States,” Aungst said. “It also helps them understand how hard you have to work to keep up with some of these programs that are in these hockey hotbeds around the country.”
This weekend, teams from around the nation will be coming to Phoenix to play in the annual Icebreaker tournament. It will be another chance for DYHA teams to improve thanks to another slate of uncommon opponents.
Tournaments during Thanksgiving, the Holidays, and in the New Year are still on the horizon, but thanks to the events happening both in the Valley and around the country now, the season is starting to really kick into gear. It is a time all DYHA coaches are hoping to progress their teams a little bit more.