INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- With three players grappling in the corner, Kyle Kawamura of the Thunder 99s deftly moved into flank position. As the rolling puck tumbled free, the Pee Wee center emerged as the possessor, circling and fundamentally sliding a pass through an opening in the penalty-killing unit and to the point. Turning on a dime, Kawamura drove and crashed the net.
Sure, it might have been one of the few scoring chances Kawamura did not convert this season, but examine the opportunity. Then analyze the fundamentals Kawamura worked on last offseason.
Better vision? Check.
Tighter turns? Check.
Is it any wonder that team manager Ed Kawamura on Sunday spoke so proudly after his son led the U-12 Thunder to their first trip to the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships at Williamsville, N.Y., beginning March 28?
“This is his passion,” the elder Kawamura said.
In the final of the 2012 USA Hockey Southeastern District Tournament Championship Sunday, Kawamura scored three goals at Extreme Ice & Fitness Center, increasing his season total to 107.
“He’s a team leader,” forward Garrett Tiberi said. “He definitely can take his game as far as he wants to … as long as he keep working hard.”
Last summer, coaches advised Kawamura to concentrate on improving his vision for short passes and skating with tighter turns.
Evidenced by his movements during the third-period power play on Sunday, Kawamura appears willing to dedicate the time and effort to improve.
After competing in the upcoming National Championships and entering the offseason, Kawamura already has a menu of skills to develop. The multi-sport standout is slated to highlight work on face-off proficiency and smoother skating strides.
“He’s the best player on the team and also a good teammate,” Thunder 99s Jay Feiwell said.
Lining up for a 7:45 a.m. opening face-off — on the morning after Daylight Savings Time — the Thunder proved to be early risers, serving up a three-goal first period. Kawamura scored twice, both unassisted.
The success the U-12 Thunder shared in the Charlotte suburb was, in part, developed through team chemistry, Kawamura said. Gaining early season momentum, the players overcame an October snowstorm in upstate New York to capture the Buffalo Super Series title, outscoring the competition, 38-6. In December, they placed first at the Dallas Super Series, outscoring the competition 32-5. In January, they won the Boston Super Series and defended their title at the Music City Winter Classic.
Kawamura scored key goals throughout the season.
Kawamura was born and lived his entire life in Franklin, Tenn. He wants that distinction to be known.
A resident of nearby Brentwood, Tenn., Montreal Canadiens center Blake Geoffrion, is recognized as the first “resident” of Middle Tennessee to play in the NHL. A former Nashville Predators draft pick, Geoffrion was born in Plantation, Fla., but was raised in the Nashville suburb and has been a mentor to many young players, including Kawamura.
The “resident” distinction is a point Kawamura hopes to make in the future.
His father laughs: “He wants to be the first player born in Middle Tennessee to make it to the NHL.”
While it’s difficult to predict the futures of Pee Wee hockey players, some of Kyle Kawamura’s teammates believe they are playing with an up-and-coming prospect.
“I think he can go all the way,” Feiwell said.
The dedication appears to be present. Three years ago, Kawamura was a power-hitting first baseman. “He was the best baseball player in the area,” the elder Kawamura said.
But the younger Kawamura decided to “hang up the glove” to concentrate on hockey during the offseason.
Watch out, Bantam. Kawamura has the entire summer to improve.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.