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18U Tacoma Rockets Achieve Incredible Turnaround

By Carl Chimenti - Special to, 03/30/15, 3:15PM MDT


The Rockets came back from a challenging 2013-14 season to reach nationals.

TROY, Mich. -- Last season was a nightmare for the Tacoma Rockets, one of 40 teams that participated in the Toyota-USA Hockey Youth Tier II A 18U National Championships this past week at the Troy Sports Center in Michigan.

The 2013-14 roster included only 11 players and one goaltender, and by the time the season was over, because of injuries, the team was down to just eight able bodies. The result was no surprise: The Rockets managed to tie two games while losing 24.

“I tried to encourage them,” coach Rob Kaufman said. “I told them it takes two years to build a good program.”

Forget two years. Last fall 32 kids showed up at tryouts, and from that a roster of 19 players was assembled, including all 11 kids from last year’s team.

The Rockets turned things around and ended up with a winning record of 22-10-2 this year. They continued their Cinderella season in the Washington state tournament, winning 3-0 over the Tri-City Junior Americans in the semifinals and then completing their miracle on ice by qualifying for the national championships when they downed the top team in the state, the West Sound Warriors, 4-1.

Although they came up short at nationals, losing their first two games to the Charlotte Checkers and the TVHA (Idaho) Hawks before closing out with a win over the Columbia (S.C.) Cyclones, nobody can take away what they accomplished this season.

“I was just amazed at their dedication,” Kaufman said. “Each one of those kids put their heart into it.”

Family Hockey a Labor of Love

While a lot of families don’t get the chance to watch their kids play hockey in a national tournament, Joyce Cahil is blessed with not one but two kids playing in the national championships this year.

Son James, a senior at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, plays defense and a little forward for the Utah Golden Eagles, who participated in the Tier II 18U A National Championships in Troy.

Sarah, a freshman at the same high school, plays on the blue line for the Utah Lady Grizzlies, and she competed this week at the Tier II Girls National Championships a short drive away in Lansing, Mich.

“I am from Minnesota and my husband played recreational hockey, so it’s in our blood,” said Cahil, who is also the Golden Eagles’ manager. “The kids both love to play the game and want to continue playing at the next level.”

James is weighing out his options trying to decide if college hockey or junior hockey is the best route to go for him. Sarah dreams of one day playing for a Division I school in college.

Trying to watch both kids playing hockey is always a struggle for both parents, but they find a way to attend despite their busy schedules.

“It’s important for us to go and watch as many games as possible,” Cahil said. “This weekend we will both be traveling to watch the kids and we are excited to see them in the nationals.”

TVAHA Hawks Organization Fulfills Missing Dream

As a hockey organization, the TVAHA Hawks have fulfilled a longtime dream of participating in the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships.

The Boise, Idaho-based organization is celebrating eight years of great hockey and service to the hockey community.

Over the last five years, the players have begun to come together as a group and have won three state titles. This year they have finally taken that next step.

“We have fulfilled a dream of playing in the USA Hockey nationals,” coach Rusti Joiner said. “They have dedicated their team to improving hockey.”

The Hawks reached the 18U A semifinals before losing to the Portland (Maine) Jr. Pirates.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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