Inline Hockey Association of Arizona
2017 Best State Finals Ever
After 18 IHAAZ state championship tournaments, this one was up there with the best of them. Not just because the AZ Coyotes had an outstanding interactive experience for the fans, or the incredible Skills Champions jerseys awarded by Grasshopper Athletic Team Apparel or even the awesome custom shirt artists Phat Teez who provided custom printed/themed sublimated shirts for everyone. No, once again, it was the incredible performances by so many talented & inspired youngsters and their unrelenting fans.
So – here we go – let's get a close look at all of the divisions and how they played out.
All season long, the big battle came down to 2 outstanding teams – Knighthawks and Prescott Storm. Neither team had lost to any other team in the division and the Storm had not lost to the Knighthawks all season long, until state finals. It was in round-robin play that the Knighthawks finally nicked the undefeated Storm 3–2. But after both teams won their semi-final games, the Storm had reawakened their turbulent, talented playmakers after their earlier loss & put a beat-down on the Knighthawks in the finale 9–4 with the Storms' Eli Simpson racking up 6 goals as Prescott took the state trophy.
No championship at this state finals was tighter between the 2 contenders than the 10u division. Both the eventual final 2 teams, Knighthawks & junior Wildcats, tied each other in round-robin play & ended up with identical records, but Knighthawks took the number one seed into the championship game. The title game was frantic as the Junior Wildcats led 4–3 with 22 seconds left in regulation – which is when Knighthawks' Gage Woolford scored the tying goal & Addison Nolfsinger assisted. With just 1 minute into sudden death, tourney MVP Faith Dababneh found the back of the Wildcats' net from the far right side & the Knighthawks won a thrilling come-from-behind state championship title, 5–4.
This, being the premier division that everyone was locked onto from the beginning of state finals, showcased 3 outstanding teams that battled for the top 2 seeds to get into the championship game. Since last years' state title was won by the Wildcats in sudden death, it seemed as if the Wildcats had a chip that they could cash in. But round-robin play would not benefit the Wildcats this year as the Knighthawks & Yuma Blaze battled their way into the finale. In spite of an early round-robin loss to the Knighthawks, the Yuma Blaze unleashed their outstanding team defense and their scoring phenom, Justin VanDeberg, put an exclamation point on their 5 – 1 state championship victory.
From the beginning of the 14u round-robin pool play, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the AZ Royals & Yuma Blaze would meet for the open team title in the 14uA division. Indeed, that was the case, as both teams went undefeated in their respective pools. But this championship was all AZ Royals as there was not one phase of their game that lacked excellence. Outstanding tournament goalie, Dylan Sharkey, allowed but 1 goal to reach the back of his net all tournament long as he led his AZ Royals to a 7–1 beat-down of the Yuma Blaze in the finale. The Yuma Blaze had to contend with a team made up primarily of 2nd year 12u players, just as the AZ Royals had to contend with at last years' state finals when they succumbed to the Stealth in the championship game.
Perhaps the biggest upset shocker of the state finals came down to this division. It seemed the Knighthawks had been counted out of the competition early after a devastating 0-8 mercy at the hands of the Junior Wildcats in round-robin play. After another loss to the Yuma Blaze in round-robin play, the Knighthawks had one last chance to redeem their dream of a championship, which they did with a 4-0 shutout of the tournament favorite, Havasu Dust Devils, in the semi-final game. They once again met their nightmare adversary – Junior Wildcats – in the title game, and proceeded to dismantle the Wildcats piece by piece, with their stellar goalie, Tatum Proud, being the first player in IHAAZ history to win top goalie and MVP honors at a state final, virtually shutting down the Wildcats for a 6 – 3 state title win.
What can you say when a team that did not win a single festival in the 2017 season, enters the state tournament and spanks every team in the division (save for 2-2 tie with the AZ Royals Blue)? Well, say no more as Royals White goalie, Nathan TePas put on a clinic that every youngster who aspires to play big boy goalie, should watch. Add in a little bit of MVP Carson Welch & you have an AZ Royals White team that played the tournament for the ages. Defending champs, Yuma Blaze, felt confident, going into the finale, that they still had the magic that led them to a huge upset at last years' state championships. But again, it was Royals White goalie Nathan TePas that shut down the state's most lethal offensive weapon – Yuma's all-state Logan Estes and the entire Blaze team, for an inspiring 5–1 state championship victory.
2017 ALL-STATE PLAYER SELECTIONS
These 30 athletes were selected as the top performers in 2017.
2017 SKILLS CHAMPS
Who were the fastest, shot-blockingest and scoringest athletes at state finals?
2017 FINALS SCORE SHEETS
Wanna see the championship games in fine detail? Check out the finals games' scoresheets.