Inline Hockey Association of Arizona
Action in Yuma
Aside from yet another fantastic IHAAZ festival in Yuma, a great technology has been discovered that can end droughts, bring water to parched areas and provide sustenance to fields, trees and gardens. Schedule an IHAAZ inline hockey festival in your town and the water will fall.
But let's not get caught up in acts of God. 25 teams converged on Kennedy Park in Yuma and left an indelible mark of hockey excellence that gave families a chance to celebrate with their children. And as we have anticipated every year since 2000, we were all treated to a level of hospitality and genuine friendliness by the Yuma faithful that has elevated every year since. Tri-tip and chicken dinners, volleyball sand courts, endless open fields of grass for playing, lounging and enjoyment and an outstanding hockey venue with exciting games and dramatic finishes.
So let's review how these outstanding hockey athletes and their teams performed over the weekend.
So the 8u division is the last remaining division, this season, in which the festival champs have not relinquished their grasp on the gold medal. Once again, for the 3rd festival in a row, the Prescott Storm took down the Knighthawks, with a 7–3 victory in what turned out to be the championship game. Both teams had minimal problems getting to 3 wins & no losses before meeting each other in the last game of the division. However, the Storm did reveal a slight chink in their armor as the Knighthawks put in the first goal of their game & very briefly had the Storm on the ropes. But again, it was the swarming, suffocating defense of the Storm & their unselfish playmakers that simply overwhelmed the Knighthawks as the game got longer. Yuma Blaze is slowly but surely making a move, as their defense tightened up and their white hot scoring threat, Brody Amon, was an absolute beast. We will see teams elevating their games more & more as we go down the back straight of the festival season.
This division is really tightening up & getting exciting. For the 2nd festival in a row, the Knighthawks came out on top with a close 5–3 win over the Yuma Blaze in what turned out to be the championship game. The Knighthawks, however, were taken to the very limit, in round-robin play, as the Jr. Wildcats simply would not give up. It wasn't until the Knighthawks' Faith Debabneh & festival MVP Brandon Gorzynski teamed up to put in the go-ahead goal for a 5-4 win. For Yuma, it was forward Cole Gebhart and goalie Jonathan Pool, who really pushed their Blaze teammates to move their game up a notch as their improvement from their previous 2 festivals was significant. Expect this division to be extremely competitive by state finals as this division could be a toss-up.
It seemed that after the Havasu festival, the Yuma Blaze had a rather secure grasp on the division. But that changed at the Yuma festival. The Knighthawks truly revealed their gamesmanship as they took on the Yuma Blaze in the last game of the division with both teams sporting undefeated records from round-robin play. It was the Knighthawks who scored first with goals from festival MVP Zak Magby. After that, the Yuma Blaze ran into an extremely stingy Knighthawks defense that clogged passing lanes and backchecked Yuma's outstanding scoring threat, Justin VanDeberg very effectively. Knighthawks goalie, CJ Foster, was simply stellar all festival long, logging 2 shutouts in round-robin play, and virtually shutting down Yuma's offensive attack while taking a very well deserved 3–1 victory in an outstanding game from both teams. But make no mistake, this division is going to shake out even more in the next 2 festivals.
Wow – what more can be said about this white hot division? The big question will be, who will be white hot when it counts most at state finals? Virtually every team made a statement. For the 2nd festival in a row, the Prescott Storm lost only 1 game in round-robin play and still found themselves out of the medal ceremony. Prescott continually found ways to avoid losses but still, could not find the game winning goal as they had to 'kiss their sisters' with two 1–1 ties. This opened the door just enough for the AZ Royals Blue to stick their foot into the championship game with the Yuma Blaze. Royals Blues' Jake Dempsey continually found a response when they needed a score. It was his assist against the Storm & his hat trick against the AZ Royals White that kept their hopes alive. But it was the Yuma Blaze that showed everyone the mojo that propelled them to a historic state championship win last season as goalie Rhett Teeter was outstanding & their bench answered with 5 different players contributing to goals & assists as they pinned a 3–2 loss on the AZ Royals Blue. Yep, get your seat reserved at state finals for this division as it will be worth every penny.