The Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association PeeWee B team won the Alaska State Hockey Association championship Monday at the Curtis C. Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.
The Ice Hawks defeated the Anchorage North Stars 4-1 in the title game.
Johnny Bea, the coach of the squad, said according to the trophy, it is the first time a KPHA PeeWee B team won a state title since 1993. It also is the first state title at the B level for KPHA in 10 years.
The title completes a season in which the Ice Hawks went 11-1 in league play and also won the Termination Dust and Polar Bear tournaments in Anchorage.
Bea, 43, said there are a number of reasons it’s so hard for KPHA clubs to break through.
“I started playing hockey when I was 9, and I grew up playing hockey for KPHA,” Bea said. “When I was 21, I did a walk-on tryout for the Anchorage Aces, and actually made it and we won the national championship in 1994.
“I learned more about how the game is actually played and coached up there in three weeks than I did in my entire career down here.”
Bea also said Anchorage teams have a numbers advantage.
“At the tryouts, there were 22 kids and I ended up taking 14,” Bea said. “In Anchorage, a tryout will have 75 kids and they are shooting for 14.”
Bea said he spends most of his time at the PeeWee level working on skill development.
“A lot of coaches come with new drills every other night and half the time on the ice is spent explaining a drill,” Bea said. “I just had certain drills with names for them.
“By the end of the year, I could’ve just told the captain what to run. I didn’t need to be on the ice.”
Bea, who has been coaching on and off for 10 years in KPHA, said the association can have success against the bigger cities.
“What it really comes down to is the coaching director setting standards for what will be taught at a certain age,” Bea said. “It has to be more of a structured environment.
“That’s why it has failed in the past.”
Ultimately, he said it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for success.
“It could just be that I was blessed with the right group of kids,” he said.
Bea credited assistant coach Trevor Baldwin for a lot of help. He also said Dave Bolin from Homer drove his son, Clark, to Soldotna two or three times a week for seven months, and was also really helpful.
“Seven months ago, I posted on Facebook, ‘I have my team. I will win state.’” Bea said. “Ironically, it happened.”
The manager of the team was Brad Nye.
The players were Corbin Wirz, Galen Brantley III, Brayden VanMeter, Clark Bolin, Parker Lockwood, Nathaniel Beiser, Jordan Knudsen, Wyatt Medcoff, Braxton Urban, Lucas Kline, Brock Miller, Miles Marston, Cade Appelhans, Journey Miller and Cody Nye.