Blue Devils head to national tournament
After stellar regular season and postseason play, the Mustang Hockey Association’s Blue Devils PeeWee AA hockey team is heading to the national tournament.
The Blue Devils’ quest for a national title begins Wednesday, March 28 in Reston, Va. But they need a little help getting there.
To cover the trip’s expenses, the team is holding “A Taste of Eagle River,” a fundraiser with appetizers and drinks from local restaurants at Jitters coffee shop on Saturday, March 17, from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Jitters for $30 for singles and $50 for couples or at the door Saturday night for $40 for singles and $60 for couples.
The Blue Devils are guaranteed three games at nationals. They will be playing teams from Maryland, Missouri and Virginia, head coach Chris Brunnhoelzl said.
“They’re excited about it,” he said. “It’s a great experience for them.”
Brunnhoelzl’s knowledge of his three unknown opponents is all on paper. But stats don’t offer much insight into how a team plays, he said.
“You don’t know, so you just have to go into it expecting they’re gonna be tough teams and try to bring your A game,” Brunnhoelzl said.
The Blue Devils cruised through their league play this season, going undefeated with only one tie. They claimed the state title with ease, outscoring their opponents 45-2 in five tournament games.
They capped off their state title run with an 8-0 victory over the Alaska All-Stars in the championship game March 4.
Most of the Blue Devils are returners, Brunnhoelzl said, and have been playing together their entire careers.
“We’ve got a good group of kids,” he said. “It just seemed to click this year.”
The team’s experience was a major factor for such a successful season, Brunnhoelzl said.
“The kids matured enough throughout this year to win those tough games,” he said.
The Blue Devils’ depth is the team’s biggest asset, Brunnhoelzl said.
“We’ve got a number of talented players that can score at any time,” he said.
The team rolls three offensive lines and will continue to do so at nationals, Brunnhoelzl said.
Backchecking will be key if the Blue Devils are to vie for the title, Brunnhoelzl said.
“Our offense takes care of itself,” he said. “We stress a lot of defense.”
Netminder Trent Burnham will be another crucial part of the Blue Devils’ success, Brunnhoelzl said. If Burnham plays his best, the team will have a chance to win any game, he said.
And Burnham has been shining at critical times, Brunnhoelzl said.
“He shows up in the big games,” he said.
Brunnhoelzl said his squad needs to play each game as one unit.
“We just have to go into it with a team mentality,” he said.
This won’t be the Blue Devils’ first tournament Outside. The team traveled to Denver earlier this season, and it will pay dividends in Virginia, Brunnhoelzl said.
“We can say we’re not just here for the experience,” he said. “We’re here to win some games.”
And the Blue Devils intend on doing just that, Brunnhoelzl said.
“Hopefully, we’ll bring home some hardware,” he said.