Exceeding expectations after opening the season with a loss, the Valencia Jr. Flyers Squirt B team turned things around and came together at the right time to win the California Amateur Hockey Association 2018-19 A/BB/B 10U B Division State Championship in San Jose on Sunday, Mar. 31.
“We put a team together with a lot of inexperienced kids, but we put in a lot of hard work and with the coachability of the kids along with very supportive parents we were able to have a lot of success throughout the season,” said Valencia Jr. Flyers head coach Sebastien Azra.
Losing to the Ontario Empire No. 2 B team, the 11-player Flyers team consisting of Anthony Gasparyan, Dylan Harvanchik, Raymond Mitchell, Lucas Morrison, Jeremy Murtishaw, Noelle Paulson, Aidan Pla, Owen Schroerlucke, Nate Swanson, Michael Wilder and goalie Phillip Wiggins went on to win all 14 of the final regular season games to compile a 14-1 record and advance to the Southern California Amateur Hockey Association playoffs.
Forcing 106 goals in the regular season while allowing 29 goals, the team only had two games decided by one goal, the first game of the season and a 6-5 win against California Goldrush B team.
Mitchell led the team and the tied for first in the league with 50 total goals while Wiggins exceeded expectations and became one of the league’s premier goalies.
“We put in a very defensive structure into our team to try to reduce the amount of shots taken on us and the kids did a good job of adapting to that,” Azra said.
In the SCAHA first-round playoffs, the Flyers won two of three games, defeating the Oakland Bears and the OCHC by identical scores of 4-1. They fell to the Empire HC 4-2 in the third game, but advanced to the second round as the second place team in their bracket.
Defeating Goldrush 5-4 in the most exciting game of the season, the Flyers moved onto the league championship but fell to the Wave 7-6.
Finishing in second place, the Flyers qualified for the CAHA 2018-19 A/BB/B State playoffs as one of two teams from Southern California where they would meet the Wave in a rematch of the league finals.
In a fairly easy first game, the Flyers beat the Oakland Bears 6-1 and came back to beat the San Jose Girls 3-2 after being down 2-1 late in the third period to advance to the state championship game against the Wave.
Down 3-2 with three minutes left in the game, the Flyers tied the game and forced overtime.
In the overtime period, Mitchell came through with the game-winning goal in the opening minutes to defeat the Wave 4-3 and claim the state title.
“This is the first time and first experience for at least half of the kids playing travel hockey,” Azra said. “Early on we had low expectations and we never imagined we would be the state champions at the end of the season. As a coach, for me, the kids were a pleasure to be around all the time. They were hungry to learn and they made it a wonderful experience for me as a coach.”