First-year Storm 16U AAA team exceeding all expectations
When the Nevada Storm organization hosts the USA Hockey Pacific District Tournament next month for the 15 and 16U AAA levels, the Storm’s own 16U team will get to partake on home ice at the Las Vegas Ice Center.
The tournament runs March 9-12 and Micah Sanford, the head coach for the first-year 16U AAA team, sees the event as a very positive one for the Storm association.
“I believe hosting the Pacific Districts really helps put Storm AAA hockey on the map,” said Sanford. “It’s also great for our younger teams to witness what AAA hockey is all about and what level they need to raise their game to play AAA hockey. We understand that every district game is going to be a battle and we will have to bring our best effort every game to give ourselves the best chance possible. If we can do this every game and get a few bounces from the hockey gods, anything can happen.”
Storm 16U assistant coach Adam Naglich is equally excited to see how his team meshes with other high-end squads.
“Hosting the districts gives the entire organization an opportunity to see how our team matches up against all the top teams,” said Naglich. “From a team standpoint, it gives the players some extra confidence playing at home in front of our friends and family. We know the competition is going to be tough. With a couple bounces, hopefully, we can come out on the winning side and surprise a couple teams.”
Naglich added that after an initial stretch to start the year, the 16U team has gelled and adjusted to AAA hockey.
“I think overall, the players have done a great job making the jump to AAA,” Naglich said. “We know we still have a long way to go to be a top-end team, but I believe the players that we have this year have given the organization a great foundation moving forward.”
“It was an adjustment at the beginning of the season for our players to get used to the speed of AAA hockey, but they picked it up quickly and haven’t looked back,” added Sanford.
The Storm 16U AAA team is made up of forwards Tyler Brooks, Darion Conaway, Alexander Furste, Zach McClanahan, Aiden McNabb, Cody Printzen, Dane Whittet and Cameron Zucker; defensemen Steven Avalone, Dylan Davenport, Alexander Hone, Anthony Rodriguez, Matthew Valdez and Jaiden Wild; and goaltenders Cameron Birchill and Anthony Bonaldi.
Both Sanford and Naglich said a handful of key players have been standouts all season long.
“The players that have stood out the most this year are Steven Avalone, Aiden McNabb, Zach McClanahan and Cameron Zucker,” said Sanford. “Steven and Aiden are two of the hardest working players I have ever coached. They never take a day off and are determined to become high-level players. Zach has great natural skill and sees the ice very well. He scores big, timely goals for us all the time and can be relied on in every situation. Cameron is a player who has made drastic improvements all year long. He is an incredible passer who has great vision.”
“I would say Steven Avalone has surprised me the most by his work ethic and commitment to the game,” noted Naglich. “He’s the first one on the ice and the last one off every day and you can see how his game continues to involve because of his work ethic.”
Moving forward as districts creep closer, both coaches have short-term and long-term aspirations for their 16U group.
“Our goal is to continue to get better as a team and as individuals each and every day,” Naglich said.
“In this organization, our goal is to make every player better every day,” Sanford added. “Winning is great, but as coaches, we are here to develop these young men into great players and even better human beings.”
— Matt Mackinder