by Jonathan Weaver
An Armstrong Arrows team went for the state championship during the weekend.
The Arrows U16 team ranked fifth in Class AA in the state after the regular season before playing at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.
First-Year Head Coach Lee Grafton said during the regular season the team – made up of 14, 15 and 16 year old male athletes from Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland Counties – traveled for tournaments in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Cleveland, Buffalo and Erie.
During the regular season, the U16 team had a winning season, with a record of 30-18-3.
“We’ve seen all these teams, and it’s been a battle all year. All the games have been close,” Coach Grafton said.
Grafton was also a former Arrows and Kittanning High School hockey coach and hockey player, as well as with the Pittsburgh Amateur Penguins.
He also hopes to coach next season as well as establishing a U14 team.
The U16 team beat North Pittsburgh 3-0 in the first game Thursday night before playing Erie Friday night.
Members on the U16 team were also part of the Armstrong River Hawks varsity team this past season – including forwards Jace Rearic (who scored during the semi-final playoff loss to Mars) and registered more than 30 points during the season, Giovanni Romeo, Easton Hooks and Nick Benvenuti, and defensemen Kooltyn Livengood and Henrik Milliron.
Coach Grafton said other U16 athletes were on the Butler and Freeport junior varsity and varsity teams as well.
“The more games and experience the better,” Coach Grafton said.
The winner will move on to the national tournament.