Wild start to the new year for bantam hockey team

Although the High Sierra Wild and Valley of the Sun Hockey Association teams are 850 miles apart, they have become rivals.

High Sierra, which includes players from South Lake Tahoe, Reno, Carson City, Minden and Gardnerville, avenged a championship defeat to the Phoenix youth hockey club by

capturing the Coyote Cup's bantam B division New Year's weekend in Arizona.

The friendly rivalry got started more than a year ago when VOSHA defeated the Wild 6-2 in the 2004 Peewee Junior Ducks tournament finals in Anaheim.

But this time the Wild tightened up their defense and generated more offense in a 4-1 victory. Cooper Stanley of South Lake Tahoe figured in three of the Wild's goals and was awarded the tournament's most valuable player. He had two assists and a goal.

Goalie Matt Scherer made certain the four goals were more than enough to prevent the Mustangs from celebrating on their home ice.

"That was pretty sweet," said High Sierra head coach Michael Rader. "I thought we would be competitive, but it was almost the same coaches and same kids and everything from the team we played in Anaheim, so I thought, 'Oh no.'

"The difference was having another year of experience under their belts and they wanted to win so badly. They definitely came to play."

Both finalists crafted 4-0 records going into the finals.

Stanley and fellow local players Jon Betts and Paul Amundson each netted a goal as the Wild opened the tournament with a 7-2 rout of the Phoenix Polar Bears. Betts also assisted on a goal.

South Lake Tahoe's Chris Yarrow was between the pipes in the Wild's 6-4 triumph over the Peoria Roadrunners. Stanley scored a pair of late goals and Betts contributed an assist to hold off the Roadrunners.

The Wild completed their unbeaten run to the finals with a 2-0 shutout of the Junior Coyotes and 4-3 decision over the Flagstaff Northstars. Four second-period Wild goals proved to be critical as Flagstaff scored twice in the final period.

"Our defensive lineup is getting stronger and stronger," Rader said. "It's giving our offense some chances of getting down the ice and getting back in the scoring zone."

Stanley had a team-high seven goals and three assists in five games.

"He definitely has a nose for the net," Rader said. "He's just crafty when he has the puck."

Betts finished with two goals and two assists and Amundson netted a goal.

Jimmy Thorngren and Austin Hoyt delivered plenty of offense for the Wild. Thorngren had five goals and five assists and Hoyt collected four goals and three assists.

The Coyote Cup championship banner will soon hang at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, joining the San Jose Junior Sharks title banner the team won as peewees last year.

The Wild will resume its NorCal schedule this weekend with road games against the San Francisco Sabercats and Stockton Colts. Rader expects the Wild to improve on its fourth-place league standing in the weeks ahead.

"I think we'll carry that momentum forward now. We want to have the second seed going into the state finals, not the fourth-place seed," Rader said.


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