On one of the busiest hockey weekends of the year, two DYHA teams captured Cactus Cup championships over the MLK Day holiday.
Sean Whyte’s 18U AA squad went a perfect 5-0 during their run to a tournament title, the first banner the Jr. Sun Devil Midgets have won this year.
In a tightly contested championship game against Canada’s Kamloops Jr. Blazers, the Jr. Devils jumped out to an early lead and tacked on two third period goals en route to a 4-1 win.
“Typically, in the beginning of the season it seemed like we were down early in games where we would have to fight back to make anything happen,” Whyte said. “That they were prepared and ready to go at the drop of the puck and to score early enough in the game to give us the lead definitely was something they accomplished very well this weekend.”
DYHA’s defensive efforts helped the Midgets win their first tournament of the year, as they allowed just 5 goals in their 5 victorious contests.
“The fact that we were able to go 5-0 in this tournament and these boys realizing that they can string together that many games in a row with consistent play and teamwork definitely helps,” Whyte said.
Evan Lastine lead the team in scoring, collecting 2 goals and 4 assists in the tournament. The Jr. Devils also received 5-point contributions from Joshua Tucker (3 goals – 2 assists), Ethan Briggs (2-3), and Kole Kamin (3-2). Goalie Kevin Church won all 4 of his Cactus Cup starts, while fellow netminder Jarrod Wolfert recorded a 9-save shutout as well.
The high stakes success will also pay dividends for the rest of the 18U’s season, now with an emotional performance to draw back on with State Playdowns just weeks away.
“The emotion was geared more towards the fact that we haven’t accomplished anything like that this season so these boys were really pumped up about being able to bring home a championship,” Whyte said.
Elsewhere, the 12U Major Jr. Sun Devils also went undefeated over the tournament weekend, posting a 5-0-1 record and tournament championship of their own thanks to a 7-3 title game win over Mission AZ Ice.
“It was great for the kids,” coach Brad McCaughey said. “We’ve had a tough year. The division we are in we play a lot of good hockey teams and it was great for them to go out on the weekend, work really hard and get rewarded.”
Leading just 3-2 going into the third period of the championship contest, the Jr. Devils exploded for 4 goals in the final frame. Forward Matthew Gagliano put the finishing touches on his hat trick in the closing period as well.
“They didn’t panic,” McCaughey said. “They dug down and found a way to put those games away, which was impressive. They showed a lot of confidence and played with a lot of poise.”
12U Final: Jr Sun Devils 7, Mission AZ 3
Gagliano was the team’s leading scorer during the tournament, tallying 11 goals and 7 assists. Ryan McCaughey tacked on 15 points of his own (9 goals – 6 assists) while goalies Hunter Krell and Kyler Vieth each posted solid goals against averages of 3 GAA.
After working through their struggles earlier this season, McCaughey was proud of how his team fought to achieve the memorable victory.
“It’s important to experience success,” McCaughey said. “Everyone wants to be rewarded for working hard. That’s how these kids learn, they make a lot of mistakes and that’s how we learn hockey. If all your mistakes result in losing, sometimes it leads to a lot of frustration. Our kids know we are going to make mistakes every game, but it’s how you respond to them and that you learn from them. It’s good for this group of kids to experience what it feels like to be on the winning side of things.”
Other DYHA tournament results:
16U AA: Record: 2-1-2 (Gone Wild Tournament; Blaine, MN: Tied 3rd place game)
16U 2002: Record: 2-2-0 (Cactus Cup: Quarter-finalists)...Leading scorer: Sam Stripe (0 goals – 13 assists – 13 points)
14U AA: Record: 2-2-0 (Cactus Cup)...Leading scorer: Stephen Sica (4-2-6)
14U Major: Record: 1-2-1 (Cactus Cup)...Leading scorer: Daniel O’Reilly (4-1-5)
14U Combo: Record: 0-3-1 (Cactus Cup)...Leading scorer: Zach Papadatos (3-0-3)
12U Combo: Record: 2-2-0 (Cactus Cup)...Leading scorer: Alyssa Wilson (1-3-4), Alex Liu (3-1-4)
10U Major: Record: 0-4-0 (Cactus Cup)...Leading scorer: Collin Ubrig (2-0-2)
10U Minor: Record: 0-4-0 (Las Vegas Invitational)...Leading scorer: Aiden Lynch (1-0-1), James Roll (0-1-1)