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Jr. Kings run the table, win seven Tier I state titles

 

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For the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, winning all four California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) Tier I state championships at the 18U, 16U, 15U and 14U AAA levels over the first weekend of February marked a crowning achievement in itself.

Running the table again a month later in the 13U, 12U and 11U AAA age divisions proved historic.

In capturing all seven Tier I state championships, the Jr. Kings laid claim to the unprecedented feat of winning every age division at the event in a single season.

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And, given the ever-growing depth and strength of Tier I hockey across the state, it’s an accolade the program understandably holds in high regard.

“It’s quite an accomplishment, to say the least, and one we’re extremely proud to celebrate on a number of levels,” said Jr. Kings general manager of hockey operations Nick Vachon, who also serves as head coach of the club’s state champion 12U AAA team.

“Obviously, you need a lot of things to go your way and a little luck to win every division – especially seven of them – but in the end, all of our teams dug deep at pivotal moments over the course of their weekends and all got the job done, which says a lot about our players’ resolve and commitment of our coaching staffs.”

One of the more dramatic finishes came at the 13U tournament, where it took two overtimes for the Shawn Pitcher-coached Jr. Kings (pictured) to upend the Anaheim Jr. Ducks in the championship game, 2-1.

“It was a hard-fought few days, no question, and we were fortunate to come out on top,” said Pitcher. “Weekends like these put the kids in a lot of pressure-packed situations over a short period of time, and to see our boys respond they way they did when it counted most was special.”

With their banner-raising performances at states, the 18U (coached by Barry Dreger), 16U (Jack Bowkus), 15U (Jaro Modry) and 14U AAA (Jeff Turcotte) teams all punched their tickets to the Pacific District Championships, which were showcased earlier this month in San Jose (states marked the end of the season for the 13U, 12U and Jeremy Daughaday-coached 11U AAA squads).

At districts, the Jr. Kings’ 14U team cruised to the title in its division earning a berth to next month’s USA Hockey National Championships.

“To win states and then regionals is exciting, and we can’t wait for the test in front of us at nationals,” said Turcotte. “Our boys have worked extremely hard to earn this opportunity, and I know full well they plan to make the most of it.”

A number of other teams within the Jr. Kings organization also held high hopes as the postseason commenced, including its Maik Tatavosian-led Pee Wee AA1 team, which advanced through Tier II Playdowns in February to earn a berth to this month’s CAHA Tier II State Championships.

What’s more, five A, BB and B teams – Pee Wee A1 (coached by Chad Demers) and BB (Stephane Desjardins) and Squirt A2 (James Gasseau), BB1 (Jeff Bain) and B (Chet Carlbom) – all finished in the top eight in the regular season in their respective divisions to qualify for the Southern California Amateur Hockey Association playoffs.

“What’s most exciting from a club perspective is that we’re experiencing success at all levels; not just with the older, Tier I age groups,” said Vachon. “And that bodes well for us moving forward both from a player development standpoint as well as how we compete on the local, regional and national stages.

“But, in the end, what’s most important is the growth and maturation of our kids; the banners and trophies are a byproduct of their commitment to becoming better hockey players and better people.”

— Brian McDonough

(March 20, 2018)