The Del Mar Outdoor Tournament Series was the first taste of outdoor hockey for many of the players on the Anaheim Jr. Ducks Pee Wee AA1 team.
If the results from the late December are any indication, the boys will welcome a return to the great outdoors.
The Jr. Ducks went 5-0 to win the 12U AA division at the event, edging a team from Orange County Hockey Club, 2-1, in the championship game.
“We came from behind, then had to defend a one-goal lead at the end. It was a great challenge for the kids,” Jr. Ducks coach Laddy Kohn said. “It’s good to be in situations like that to learn.”
The unique event was staged at the Del Mar Grand Arena at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“Any chance for California players to do something different is great,” Kohn added. “They don’t have the opportunity to play outside like I did when I was growing up. A lot of work went into the tournament and it was a cool set-up.
“The ice conditions held up OK. It was a unique experience for the kids.”
The variety of start times forced all of the participants to adapt, Kohn added.
“The morning games were colder than the kids were used to, and there was some fog that rolled in for some afternoon games,” Kohn said.
The tournament title was further validation for a 2005 birth year group that has positioned itself well as it heads for the homestretch of its season. Through late January, the Pee Wee AA1 team was sitting in second place in Flight 1 of CAHA’s Pee Wee AA Division with a 10-3-1 record, just two points out of first with four games to go.
“We have a good mix of kids,” Kohn said. “Some have played with me since Squirts, some are new and some played AAA last season.”
The wins are nice, but the development of the players – individually and collectively – has pleased Kohn the most.
“Every year the skill level improves, their speed improves, they’re making better plays and they’re more creative,” he said. “An entire line can attack rather than one player skating the puck in. Everyone is more involved and they move the puck around better.”
That’s been the case whether indoors or outdoors.
Team members include Lucas Ananias, Evan Barela, Brayden Boucher, Matthew Burgner, Ameen Ghosheh, Jacob Gregory, Ivan Gutierrez, Jakub Kohn, Jason McKee, Ian Strause, Alexander Troubh, Lino Viau, Matthew Welsh and Christian Yi, as well as goaltenders Chance Legaspi and Gavin Zdonek.
In addition to Kohn, the coaching staff includes Guy Viau and Albert Yi. Stephen Ananias is the manager.
-- Chris Bayee