Technically, Team Alaska, which is taking two teams to the USA Hockey Tier II Girls’ National Championships in Amherst, N.Y., is a new program.
Team Alaska, however, has impressive roots.
Groups from Fairbanks and Anchorage, fearing they would not have enough players for their own teams, combined resources to create Team Alaska, which captured the Pacific District Tier II 14U and 19U titles in tournaments held in Anchorage March 6-9.
The 14U team will be trying to win a third straight national title for Alaska at that age level.
The Alaska Icebreakers, from Fairbanks, won the 2012 national championship. Although the Icebreakers still have teams on the 12U and 16U level, a coach and players from that program became part of Team Alaska for 14U and 19U play this season.
The Alaska All-Stars, from Anchorage, won the 14U national title last season and still have 16U and 19U teams this season. The coach and several returning players from last year’s national champions have a chance to be part of their second straight 14U national championship this season with Team Alaska.
Avery Dunn, who had two goals and three assists at nationals last season, and Jaden Trboyevich, who had three goals, are back as forwards. Trboyevich scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 district championship game victory on Sunday over the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
The heart of the defense has national experience. Shilo Cederberg, Ann Meredith Roberts and Jade Pandres each contributed two points while playing on defense for the Alaska All-Stars in their national title run last year in San Jose, Calif.
Dean Trboyevich, Jaden’s father and the coach of last season’s national championship squad, assists Shawn Lundgren, the coach of Team Alaska’s 14U squad. Lundgren, who coached with the Icebreakers for several seasons, is also assistant coach of the 19U team under Rob Askew.
Askew and Trboyevich are from Anchorage, where they work with the majority of the team’s players.
Lundgren works with the smaller group in Fairbanks and travels, along with those players — four for the younger team and three for the older team — to Anchorage to practice as a group once or twice a month.
Many of the teams at nationals will be flying to take part in the tournament. Some Team Alaska players fly just for practice. With Fairbanks and Anchorage separated by 365 miles, the Fairbanks group routinely takes an airplane for practice weekends. Although most players come from the base city of Anchorage and its surrounding valley, Team Alaska also has small representation from the state capital in Juneau ever farther away.
“Logistically, it’s pretty difficult in terms of travel,” Lundgren said. “We don’t practice Monday to Friday like some teams. Our goal in September was to get together once or twice a month.”
When it was ready for games, Team Alaska had trouble finding other girls to play.
“There wasn’t anyone age-appropriate we could play,” Lundgren said. “We played a lot of boys’ teams.”
The exceptions were a tournament trip to Edina, Minn. for the 14U girls and one each to Minnesota and California for the 19U team.
The Fairbanks-area girls on the 19U team ran into yet another obstacle this year when Alaska’s six-team high school girls’ league ran into funding problems. The Scotty Gomez Foundation came up with a major donation to the Anchorage School District to save those four high school programs, but the Fairbanks team was not able to make arrangements for this season.
“That was definitely an obstacle to overcome for the Fairbanks players,” Lundgren said.
The 19U players lost the ice time they would have had as part of the high school league.
Team Alaska has faced down challenges just to have a season, let alone win a district title and advance to nationals, where its 14U team will try to bring a third straight national title back to the state.
“We’re not a team blessed with a lot of natural scorers,” Lundgren said. “We have to get it done as a group.
“Any time you live so far apart, there are going to be challenges. I think the girls in both our groups enjoy playing together. They realize any success they are going to have, they will have to do it together.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.