Hawaii Regional Recap

It’s Monday AM and I’m somewhere over the Pacific Ocean reflecting on what a great time I had in Hawaii.    I’ve been to Hawaii many times and always enjoy the islands, but this particular trip it was honestly the action at KIHA that I enjoyed the most.  The rink volunteers, parents, and players that call KIHA their home rink are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met.  The groups that came in from Australia and Maui were also very pleasant.   Everyone made spending very long days at the rink enjoyable.  It didn’t feel like work but more like a cool place to hang out.

Here’s a brief recall of how the action played out for each division. 

Atoms – 8u – three atom teams were pieced together to give the young players a taste of big tournament hockey.  Although all 3 teams flew under the KIHA Label, there were some loose players that traveled in from other islands.

In the end it would be the KIHA Warriors that would take the title over the KIHA Geckos.  There were a lot of smiles, and even a few tears, but everyone left with a positive experience and will work harder and look forward to their next tournament.

Mites – 10u – It was a 4-team mite division, with 3 of them representing KIHA and one from Maui.  Maui played tough and was never blown out, but the 3 KIHA Teams were a little bit deeper in talent.  None of the KIHA Teams would go undefeated, as the Geckos beat the Warriors, Warriors beat the Kahunas, and the Kahunas beat the Geckos.   

The Warriors would grab the #1 seed by virtue of goals against and face Maui in the semi-final, while the Kahunas and Geckos would battle in the other semi.    The Warriors would defeat Maui 5-1, but Kahunas vs Gecko matchup was a very evenly matched game.  Shots on net were basically even and each team would trade great scoring chances.  Neither team was able to score in the first half, so the real excitement was in the 2nd half.   The Kahunas just seemed to have the Geckos number and would find a way to defeat them for the 2nd time, this time by a final score of 4-2.  To show the balance of the division there were 6 different goal scorers in this particular game.

The Kahunas would carry their momentum into the championship against the Warriors.  The Warriors would jump to a 2-1 lead heading into half, but the 2nd half belonged to the Kahunas.  The real difference maker in this championship was the Kahunas goaltender Austin Harder.    Austin faced 23 shots in this final and saved 21 of them, only letting in 2.  The Kahunas scored 2 second half goals and held the Warriors off the score sheet to take the title by a final of 3-2.

Squirts – 12u – This 4-team division was comprised of two KIHA Teams, Maui, and the Southern Stars from Australia.  The KIHA Teams looked to be evenly matched and tied their first game 2-2.  The Southern Stars beat Maui and lost to the KIHA Warriors, so their 3rd game against the KIHA Geckos was the most important one.  The winner would advance to the championship while the loser would be out of the tourney.

I got a chance to watch most of this game and it was very entertaining.  The rink was packed and the atmosphere was fantastic, as it felt like a championship game even though it wasn’t.   The crowd would moan or cheer with every great play depending on which team they were rooting for.   Division High Scorer Brad Chenoweth had two goals for the Southern Stars in the effort, but in the end the Stars would fall short by a final of 7-6 and that’s how their first NARCh Tournament would end, so close to making the championship.

The championship would be a rematch of many kids that know each other well, since they’re all from Oahu.   The Geckos came to play in this one and jumped out to an early lead and never look back.  #9 Jason Godmere and #26 Attila Gooden led the charge for the Geckos and they took the title over the Warriros by a final of 6-3.

Peewees14u – Like many other divisions the same four programs made up this one, KIHA Geckos, KIHA Warriors, Southern Stars, and Team Maui.  The Southern Stars would defeat Maui but lose to both KIHA Teams.   The Warriors went undefeated through the prelims, and the Geckos only lose was to the Warriors, so it would be an all KIHA rematch for the title. 

The first time these two teams met they put up 16 goals in the game with the Warriors winning by a score of 9-7.  That’s almost a goal every 2 minutes, so lot’s of action.  This one would be played a little tighter but ultimately with the same outcome with the Warriors ending up on top.  This time the final score would be 6-3.  It’s worth noting that the Warriors goalie, Donovan Warren, faced 20 shots in the winning effort and turned away 17 of them, only letting in 3 goals leading his team to the title.

Bantams – 16u – This 4-team division was probably the tightest of the tourney, with all 4 of them having a legitimate shot at winning the division.  The KIHA Geckos grabbed the #1 seed by going 2-0-1 in the prelims.  Their tie was against the Southern Stars, who they would face again in the semi-final.  

This game would be fantastic and we would need overtime to find a winner.  The Geckos were up 2-1 but with under a minute to go the Stars added an extra attacker and pulled their goalie.   At the 0:37 second mark #15 Brandon Kenney managed to tie the game and the bench and Aussie crowd erupted.    I really thought this game would go to a shootout since each team only managed 2 goals the whole game with solid defense and goaltending.   However I was wrong, as the #99 Everett Lau received a nice pass from #3 Noah Bladado and buried his golden opportunity to send his team to the championship.

The other semi-final was also a tight game.  #6 from Maui, Niko Baclig would put his team up first to take the early lead.   The Warriors would answer though and we would head into halftime tied at 1-1.  The Warriors would take the brief lead on a goal from #40 Tyler Igarashi, but Maui would answer and again take the lead on another goal from Baclig, his second of the game.   It would remain 3-2 Maui and they would add a late insurance goal with the empty net to take this one 4-2.

Unfortunately the championship between the KIHA Geckos and Maui was not quite as close as expected, as the Geckos looked strong from start to finish.  They would shutout Maui in the championship by a final of 5-0.  Everett Lau was dishing the puck in this one, as he had 3 nice assists.  Both Travis Eichner and Tommy McNorton scored twice in the championship.

Midget Division – 18u – This was only a 3 team midget division with KIHA Geckos, KIHA Warriors, and Team Maui.   Team Maui lost to the Warriors 2-0, then to the Geckos 2-1, then again to the Warriors 4-1.  Their 4th game was meaningless since they were 0-3.   The reason for pointing this out is to show that they were very competitive they just fell a little short.

This would leave us with a familiar scene for our championship matchup, The Geckos VS the Warriors.  The Warriors had already beaten the Geckos twice so the outcome for this one was somewhat predictable.  #7 Sammy Eisenhower had a hat trick in the championship while #99 Everett Lau had 3 assist, as the Warriors went on to win 6-2.    It’s also worth noting that brothers walked away with the high scorer and top goalie honors, Sammy Eisenhower and Joel Eisenhower of the Warriors.

Womens – This was a 3-team women’s division with two teams from KIHA and the Southern Stars.  The KIHA Wahines got eliminated early by virtue of their game schedule and the outcome of those games.  They did not win a game but they were still pretty competitive.   With our 3-team format, this meant that the Geckos and Southern Stars would face each other 3 straight games.  The Geckos took the first one, the Stars won the second, setting the plate perfectly for the championship for all the marbles.

In the final both teams would manage a first half goal sending us into the break tied 1-1.   I watched most of the second half and the Stars had the puck in the Gecko’s end, but just couldn’t get it past goaltender Victoria Yadao.   When the KIHA Geckos got their changes they buried the puck.  #34 Bobbi Iwamoto had two 2nd half goals both assisted by her sister #9 Kylie Iwamoto.   KIHA Geckos would win the womens title by a final of 4-1.

Mens Division – This 10-team mens division was the highlight of the event.  All 10 teams would start as one, then after the 3 game preliminary round we would break the division into gold (top 4) and silver (remaining 6).   After the 3 preliminary games the Southern Stars VIC, KIHA Warriors, and Tour Aokis Shaved Ice grabbed the top 3 seeds and were all undefeated.   No other team had 2 wins so Those Guys were seeded 4th going 1-1-1.  Unfortunately for them their 3rd game was a lopsided loss to the Southern Stars Vic squad, then they had to turn right back around and play again in the gold semi-final.

I give Those Guys a lot of credit.   A lot of guys other than Those Guys might have grumbled around the rink by their misfortunate draw, but they took it in stride and went into the gold semi battling hard.  In the end it was still the same outcome with Southern Stars Vic winning by a lopsided margin, but the Stars had to play much harder this time against Those Guys to get to the title game.

The other gold semi-final was between the KIHA Warriors and Tour Aokie’s Shaved Ice.  The Warriors are basically comprised of many of the best up and coming younger KIHA Players with the Yoder Brothers to anchor them.   Aokie’s Shaved Ice is not exactly a bunch of old guys, most are in their mid to late 20’s and in great shape.   They came out flying and grabbed an early 3-0 lead and never looked back.  The younger Warriors give up a little size and strength, and it seemed to make a difference.   I don’t know if Aoki would still come out on top 5 years from now, but in the present they’re the better team and advanced to the championship by winning this game 7-3.

Almost everyone stuck around to watch this championship between the Southern Stars VIC from Australia and Tour Aoki’s Shaved Ice.  It was our last game of the tourney and usually the crowd clears out, but not this time.  It was our grand finale’ of the weekend.

The Stars would strike first on a goal by #19 Brent Fitzgerald assisted by #23 Jamie Bourke.   The rest of the first half would stay scoreless until #00 of Aoki’s Tommy Windham would tie the game with just 9 seconds left until half, so we would go into half tied 1-1.  The second half was all about execution, and one team did it well while the other did not.   Tour Aoki’s Shaved Ice had many great scoring chances and odd man rushes, but they would either over pass, miss the net, or hit the Stars Goalie Peter King with the puck.  Not taking anything away from Peter, he did have to make some big saves.  In the offensive zone for the Stars everything seemed to click and they slowly pulled away.  Jamie Bourke would end up with 4 points in the final, 2 goals and 2 assists and the Stars would take gold back to Australia.  Final score 6-3.

The men’s silver division playoffs were incredibly entertaining.  Jumping right into the silver semi-finals, it would be the Southern Stars SA VS Green Leaves and B Team VS Team Maui.    The Stars and Green Leaves was probably our most physical game of the tournament, as the Green Leaves really filled the score sheet with penalties, mostly in the second half.   Coincidentally that’s when the Stars would score most of their goals, as they went on to win 5-1.  It’s really too bad the Green Leaves couldn’t stay out of the box because they really are a talented team and were capable of winning the division if they played a little more disciplined.

B Team VS Maui was one of the most entertaining games of the tourney with a very exciting finish.   B Team would go up 2-1, only to see Maui tie it.  Then 3-2, then Maui would tie it again.  Up again 4-3 it looked like the B Team would be advancing to the championship, but with just :11 seconds left #20 Ross Nakagawa would tie the game once again for Maui and send the game to overtime.

Nobody scored in our 5-minute overtime, so on to a shoot-out.  At this point all eyes in the building were on this one.  I actually put a picture on facebook that captured the moment, my favorite picture of the weekend.  The first shooter to go was #21 for Maui, Dan Cesere.  He would skate down about mid speed and sniped one past B Team goalie Joey Joyce to put Maui up 1-0.  Both goalies made solid save after solid save, so this lone goal would hold up to be the game winner and Maui would face the Southern Stars SA for the silver title. 

The championship would be a rematch of the first game that both teams played in the tourney, where Southern Stars SA came out on top 3-2.  This championship game was a well-played one all the way around.  Maybe it was because it was for the title, but both teams focused more on the defense zone than they had their prior games.  For this reason it was low scoring, but didn’t lack excitement or intensity.

Both teams would score one in the first half and we would head half way through the second with the score remaining the same, 1-1.   With just over 4 minutes remaining in the game #24 for Maui, Torre Durkan would put Maui up 2-1.   The Stars were pressing with just over 2 minutes remaining but took a delay of game penalty and roughing penalty on the same play.  Down 2 men at the end it was all but over.   This Southern Stars team would have to settle for Silver and Maui would take a gold medal back to their home island for their organization.

35 and Over – 7 teams competed in this awesome division – 4 from Oahu, Southern Stars from Australia, Team Kona, and Team Maui.  Each team would play 4 preliminary games then the top 2 would advance to the gold championship while the 3rd and 4th place team would play for the silver title.

After the prelims KIHA Dukes and KIHA Warriors would play for the silver championship and the Southern Stars and KIHA Kahunas would play for gold.

CJ and Jami Yoder laced them up for the Warriors, but they obviously took it easy and just dished the puck around and got everyone involved.  For many adult players playing with CJ and Jami is the equivalent of going to a fantasy camp.  In the end the Yoders would make sure that the Warriors won the game over the KIHA Dukes, but barely, final score 6-5.

I can’t say enough about the Southern Stars in this division.  While the division was not what I would consider super deep in talent, their team probably could have played against the best players from the other 6 teams and it would have been a great game.   They would rival any team that has won NARCh FINALS or WINTERNATIONALS in this age group in recent years.   The KIHA Kunahas gave it a great effort, but in the end the boys from down under were just too strong and easily won the gold medals.

I’d like to thank all of my referees, my right hand man Alex Morrison, and the rink staff for helping me put on another great NARCh Tournament.  Already looking forward to next year!  Mahalo!