State of the Union AHU’s investment in youth development paying dividends from Mites through Junior A sons, such as being accountable for your actions and doing things that help the team more than individuality.”
By Bryan O’Sullivan
ust as the state playdowns were wrapping up for the older players, the Arizona Hockey Union Mite players were engaged in their own battle. Growth of AHU Mite teams from all over the state took the ice for the last Mite Jamboree of the year AHU prides itself on the growth they have produced. on March 24-25, hosted by the Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association. What made this Fielding teams from Mite to Midgets, as well as an in-house Junior A team, the jamboree different from the others was that there would be one team that would skate Phoenix Knights that play in the Western States Hockey League, the development of away with it all and be crowned state champions. the players is evident at every level. That team was the AHU Mite White Knights. Knowing that all players develop at different rates and in ways, AHU coach-in-chief Entering the final tournament of the season, Mite White, led by head coach Bruce Kurt Goar understands the importance of having the right coaches in place. Willis, was looking to continue the successes they had during the 2017-18 year. “To grow hockey in Phoenix, we must as coaches be committed to developing Led by third-year players Brayden Willis, Lucas Ishu and Wyatt Porter, Mite players the right way,” said Goar. “We have hand-picked our coaches to ensure that White was able to put up a perfect 6-0 record in round robin play. Entering the playoffs, the skills and techniques taught on the ice are the skills and techniques that will further they knew they would have to remain perfect in order to continue on. And they did just a player’s game.” that, securing three more wins to get to the championship game versus the Arizona The Union has done this with hometown native Colten St. Clair, a Gilbert native Bobcats. and 2016 NCAA Division I national champiWith solid goaltending from Reagan Rion with the University of North Dakota, as the vera and defensive leadership from Porter, the head skills coach. Bringing an elite-level mindKnights were able to cap off a championship set to the organization is something St. Clair is season with a 4-1 victory over the Bobcats. elated to give. According to Porter, “We have to protect “The goal of the program is to develop the our goalies and when we do that, we have fun entire person as the focus is on building lastand we win.” ing character, both on and off the ice,” said St. When asked how he thought the tournaClair. “The game of hockey is about the team ment went, Ishu replied by saying, “It was aweand learning to work within the strategies and some.” team concepts while also recognizing the creBrayden Willis led the charge for the ative aspects that come with the game.” Knights with 18 goals and 10 assists in 10 A common problem for any team is that games. Assisting on many of Willis’ goals were there is never enough ice time during the seaIshu and Porter. son to hit all areas of a player’s development. “Lucas and Wyatt are fun to play with and From learn to skate to the NHL, players are when we play well, we are pretty good,” said continuously seeking out camps, clinics and Willis. The Arizona Hockey Union’s Squirt White team won the Arizona Amateur Hockey Asso- classes to fine-tune the different facets of their Looking to keep their winning ways going, ciation’s state championship last month by defeating the Arizona Bobcats 2-1, despite game. Mite White, now eligible to play full-ice games, being outshot 21-14. Arguably the most important of these skills recently traveled to Colorado entered the DU is skating. Holly Harrington, AHU’s power Pioneer Classic hockey tournament for gradskating director and coach, breaks it down into uating Mites. the simplest form. The first game pitted them against the Col“If you can’t skate, you can’t play,” she said. orado Spartans. They were outplayed early but Teaching the proper way to skate, where were able to come back from multiple two-goal each stride is efficient, is her specialty. deficits. Ishu played the hero late in the game “The idea is to sharpen these skills to the to tie it up and the Knights won it in a shootout point of perfection, where skating correctly by a 7-6 score. becomes a habit,” Harrington said. “Once you The Knights went undefeated the on their achieve this level of expertise, the rewards beway to the finals where they faced the Colocome numerous. You will notice speed, power rado-based Krivo School of Hockey Elite. In a and quickness as well as the hidden benefits of hard-fought game, Mite White came out on top confidence, endurance and versatility.” yet again by a score of 3-2, winning the secHarrington has also been working with ond tournament in two weeks, and first of their Mite-aged players for the better part of 20 three-day-old Squirt careers. years and enjoys their endless bounds of enerWhite’s weekend in Denver was very sucgy and willingness to try. She mentions that the cessful. Not only did they win the tourney, but most important thing to consider when coachthey gained a tremendous amount of growth. For Arizona Hockey Union Pee Wee Black defenseman Sydney Pinti, “It was exciting ing Mite players is that it needs to be fun so “For it being our first full-ice experience, our raising the state trophy and celebrating with my teammates.” AHU downed the Arizona that the players can develop the love for the kids settled in to the full ice very nicely,” said Bobcats 5-0 in the title game. game. Bruce Willis. “Each player contributed to the success of the team, each having some “In my opinion, the most important thing that Mite/Squirt players need to embrace is contribution. We were again led by the usual suspects, Brayden Willis, Lucas Ishu, the act of competition,” said Willis. “It is my belief that if there is never any resistance, Wyatt Porter and Ethan Standley, but the combination of Colton Dean and Reagan then there is never a chance to improve. Children need to learn how to compete, no Rivera in the net truly was the backstop to the championship.” matter what they are competing for. It is a life lesson that I truly enjoy helping with.” When asked to what he attributes his team’s success to, Willis responded that it It’s tough to argue that based on the amount of success AHU has had. was a team effort. So what is the driving factor for the growth of AHU’s players? “I can attribute the success of our team as a whole to the dedication and the work Harrington notes that the coaches are just as excited as the players in achieving ethic of not only the children, but the families of the children,” said Willis. “The commit- the season’s goals. She believes they are successful because they set realistic goals. ment of time, energy and money by the families involved is a huge reason why these Willis believes that a relationship of trust between the players, coaches and families kids are successful. That being said, I truly believe that our team was successful this provide great value when it comes to the player development. season was because the kids worked hard, listened and ultimately, had fun. As a staff, “Family support of the child and the coaching staff goes a long way when it comes we were able to keep practices fun while teaching not only hockey skills but life les- to the success of the team,” Willis noted. 6
Arizona Rubber Hockey Magazine
The latest edition of Arizona Rubber Magazine features the Arizona Hockey Union on the cover!