Sunday, October 29, 2017

By Lee Samuels

Las Vegas – A big crowd crammed in and the Wally Lacroix-coached AA Jr Vegas Golden Knights bantam team performed bigtime in a 7-1 win over AA Arvada of Colorado to win a Can/Am Tournament gold medal at the City National Arena on Sunday.

And that makes it two gold medals and a silver in tournaments this season for this very skilled Vegas Jr Knights bantam team which skates hard, can hit when needed and has smart forwards who have the skill level to be very tricky in front of enemy nets. They make goal scoring look easy which is a mark of a great team.

In order Las Vegas this weekend beat the Phoenix Jr Coyotes 12-1 Arizona Mission 7-1, Arvada 4-0 and then worked to a six-goal 7-1 win again over Arvada in the gold medal game.

Las Vegas is 14-2 overall. This Vegas Jr Knights bantam team practices at the SoBe Ice Arena on North Rancho Drive. Wally Lacroix has coached a number of youth hockey teams here in town and this one is special….in a special sort of way.

“This team reminds me of the Jason Zucker team we had here years ago in town,” said Wally, who was Jason’s last youth hockey coach in Las Vegas.  Wally ticked off names of Jason’s teammates including Kris Carter that year. Jason was 14 1/2 playing on a AAA Nevada Storm 16u team at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

Zackary Ortolano is the goalie for the AA Jr Golden Knights bantam team. Zackary is a young premier skilled goalie who makes the big stops. The top goal scorers on Sunday included Andrew Lackas, John Purdy, Tony Mazza, Heath Mensch, William Jacob and Ian Williams. Dominic Suhr, listed at 6′ 4 1/2″, is an imposing defenseman.

Lacroix has a unique style of coaching. Every drill at practice involves skating. After a drill is complete, the skaters do a hot lap around the ice, then go to center ice and do pushups.

And why do all of that?

“I think we become closer as a team – all of us. That’s why we do it,” he said, smiling.

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From the Blue Line – This AA Jr Vegas Jr Knights team has a lot of energy and when a team like Arvada wants to check – which they did after falling behind by several goals – the Vegas players will fire off hard checks as well….There were an amazing number of fans at the gold medal game…Former UNLV coach JJ Hartman was at the boards. He is helping with the Jr Golden Knights peewee level team… The Arvada team parents said it is an 11-hour drive to get home. Most were taking evening flights to Denver….Las Vegas hockey Dad Pete Ward, whose son Cory skates for the ECHL Manchester Monarchs, was at the game near the north net area. Pete and his father Ivan are working on scheduling a trip to see Cory in New Hampshire….Cory was a big goal scoring star here in Las Vegas…There was tremendous buzz about a scrimmage game set for Monday – the Frank Salido coached AA Jr Golden Knights 16u team vs the Vegas Jr Golden Knights High School Team…..There was rinkboard talk too about a major signing – soon to be announced – involving a very popular Las Vegas skater here in town.

Official Scoring –  AA Vegas Jr Golden Knights 7, AA Arvada 1

Las Vegas goal scorers in order

Las Vegas – Andrew Lackas – tremendous young player particularly around the net area

Las Vegas – William Jacob

Las Vegas – John Purdy

Las Vegas – Ian Williams

Las Vegas – John Purdy

Las Vegas – Tony Mazza

Las Vegas – Heath Mensch

Las Vegas goalie – Zackary Ortolano – highly skilled, makes the big saves, outstanding goalie

Weekend goals for Las Vegas – Heath Mensch 6 goals, Andrew Lackas 5, William Jacob 5, Tony Mazza 3, John Purdy 3, Harrison Whissel 2, Ian Williams 2, Dominic DiTondo 1