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Sandy Journal

Oquirrh Mountaineers hockey team wins state

Apr 04, 2018 05:08PM ● By Catherine Garrett

Oquirrh Mountaineers hockey players Jackson Bybee, Ian Murray, Piper van der Sluys, Giovanni Mammano, Christopher Panek, Kenyon Johnson, Jeffrey Kain and Jackson Strelow were key players in the team’s Utah High School Hockey Division 2 Independent State Championship, which they won by defeating Southern Utah 10-1 Feb. 21. (Photo/Sharon Kain)

It’s not how you start, but how you finish. The Oquirrh Mountaineers hockey team, made up of boy and girl players from various high schools, had a fourth-place showing in their regular season in Division 2 of Utah high school hockey before heading into the state playoffs. 

Head coach Moe van der Sluys said his team was playing extremely well and were looking to “make a deep run for the playoffs” and that they did, winning the Division 2 Independent State Championship with a win over Southern Utah 10-1 Feb. 21.

“It was an amazing feeling, especially since it’s the first time in 11 years of coaching high school hockey for me, but, more importantly, to see the players and their reactions at the end of the game was priceless,” van der Sluys said. “Hockey is one of the longest seasons in high school sports. We started practicing in August so to have it culminate this way was amazing.”

During the state tournament, Oquirrh defeated Southern Utah 5-1 Feb. 10 and then UCI-South 5-4 Feb. 12 in the semifinals matchup to reach the final game.

“Because we are an independent team, it is always difficult to blend the different mentalities together and have the players bond quickly,” van der Sluys said. “This team had an influx of new players, but it was amazing how quickly they came together and relied on each other early on. They really acted and played as a team, which is what you need to take it to this level. Of course, we had some standout players but it does take the entire roster to win.”

Sophomore All-State player Ian Murray from Juan Diego Catholic High School led the state with 41 goals while senior captain Christopher Panek, an Academic All-Star from JDCHS who scored 24 goals this season, was a “game changer as well,” according to van der Sluys. 

“When put together on a line, they were unstoppable,” van der Sluys said. 

Senior assistant captain Jeffrey Kain, an All-State player and Academic All-Star who is also from JDCHS, was credited by van der Sluys as their “smartest player” and for his “amazing” defensive contributions, while senior goalie Joey Combs, an Academic All-Star from Hunter High, was “solid all year.”

Also on the 2017–18 state title team were senior All-State player and Academic All-Star Jackson Bybee from JDCHS, All-State players Reagan Tolley (Taylorsville High) and Dylan Burton (Cyprus High), along with other Academic All-Stars Piper van der Sluys, Jackson Strelow and Giovanni Mammano (JDCHS), Sarah Mason and Jared Wood (Hunter High), Austin Mendenhall and Ryan Wood (Bennion Junior High).

Other players on the squad were David Broadhead, Ethan Broadhead, Thomas Christensen, Ian Frederick, Jackson Gordon, Jeade’en Haygood, Casey Horne, Kenyon Johnson, Garrette Moore, Owen Peterson, Tristan Schetzel, Jonathan Schild, Samuel Schild, Ryan Weed and Jared Wood. 

The team had six players participate the league’s all-star game. The team was also recognized by the West Valley City Council for their championship. 

“What can I say, but I’m so proud of all the work these boys and girls put into the sport and the team,” van der Sluys said. “The cost to practice is $170 an hour so we don’t have as many opportunities to practice as other sports so players have to go on their own to drop-in hockey sessions and open skates. You can definitely tell those that put in the extra work. I’m just very proud of the coaches, trustee, parents and players for what was accomplished this year.”

Van der Sluys, who was named the division’s coach of the year, was assisted by Mike Dykman and Kory Palmer on the coaching staff with Dana Combs as team trustee.

“Hockey is a physical sport and it’s unlike any other in high school sports,” van der Sluys said, also noting the four girls on his squad — Piper van der Sluys, Tolley, Terrill and Mason — “who play and hang tough.” 

“We look to the future with our young players who will be making an impact for years to come.”