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Storm’s 16U AA team starts season strong

 

Champs

Holding high expectations entering the season, the Nevada Storm’s 16U AA team got its 2015-16 campaign off on the right foot, forging a perfect 5-0 record on its way to its division’s title at this year’s Endless Summer Classic, which was contested over Labor Day Weekend at Ice Station Valencia.

“It was a great way to kick off the year, no question,” said Storm assistant coach Nick Robone. “We played well and the effort was there, but we know this is just the beginning and need to keep working hard and improving each and every day if we want to get where we want to be come springtime.”

The Storm opened the tournament with a 4-0 shutout win over Arizona Hockey Union, followed by a 5-2 triumph over the California Cougars.

It then went on to defeat the Tri-Valley Blue Devils in a 16-0 drubbing before besting the Valencia Flyers, 3-2, on a buzzer-beating goal in regulation off the stick of forward Zach McClenahan.

Nevada met up with Valencia again in the championship game, proving victorious against the host team for a second time in a 4-3 victory.

Forward Dominick Panzarella struck for a pair of goals in the title tilt, and forward Justin Brooks and defenseman Steven Avalone (game-winner) notched the other two. Between the pipes, goaltender Cody Brewer turned aside 23 shots.

“We have a very skilled team with some guys who can really skate,” said Robone, also noting the exceptional play of Brewer and fellow netminder Anthony Bonaldi the entire weekend. “Our speed and puck movement give opposing teams problems.”

For the tournament, Brooks led the Storm’s scoring charge with nine points on four goals, followed by Panzarella (six goals) and McClenahan (five), both of whom connected for eight apiece.

The Storm is primarily a 2000 birth-year team, with a strong group of five ‘99s also in the mix. The club boasts eight players from last year’s Storm Bantam AA that advanced to the USA Hockey National Championships; five from last year’s Storm Midget A team; and four who played with other organizations a year ago, including two from Arizona.

“Many of the boys on this team have played together at one point in time within the organization,” said Robone.

Other members of the Storm include forwards Darion Conaway, Brenden Fehlig, Bryce Gould, Aiden McNabb, Kyle Molony, Hayden Seitz, Jacob Wrzesinski and Cameron Zucker; and defensemen Tsubasa Otomo, Daniel Ramos, Jaiden Wild and Michael Yochum.

Robone and John Brooks assist head coach Micah Sanford behind the bench. Natalie Zucker is the team’s manager.

“I really likes how the boys push each other at practice,” said Robone. “Every day they battle; they continually beat on one another 3-4 times a week – in a good way – but then, after practice, they’re best friends.

“The camaraderie amongst this team is one of the strongest I’ve ever seen.”

Depth throughout the lineup is also expected to be one of the Storm’s strengths, according to Robone.

“We’re very confident putting any player on the ice in any situation,” said the coach. “But we’ll need to work on keeping our game simple and learning to compete in games that aren’t always pretty.”

The Storm has a few other signature tournaments on its 2015-16 schedule, including October’s CAN/AM Challenge Cup at Las Vegas Ice Center; November’s Bauer World Hockey Invitational in Chicago; and December’s International Silver Stick, which will also be showcased at Las Vegas Ice Center.

Sanford hopes his club’s success in Southern California is just the start of something special.

“We expect to challenge for a national championship, develop each player to the best of our ability, on and off the ice, and move our young men onto the next level,” he said.

– Brian McDonough