A dominant regular season was capped off with a title in thrilling fashion to make it that much sweeter after all the work put in for the Flagstaff Avalanche hockey team.
The top-seeded Avalanche -- playing at the Division II level of the Arizona High School Hockey Association, the sport's equivalent of the AIA -- followed up an 18-0-2 regular season with a 1-0 win in the state title game over second-seeded Pinnacle last month in Scottsdale at the Scottsdale Ice Den.
The Avalanche, composed mostly of athletes from Coconino and Flagstaff as well as other schools in northern Arizona, had a rare one-goal game against Pinnacle, which competes at the 6A Conference level in the AIA in its other sports, in a thrilling title game.
The only goal of the night was scored by Avalanche forward Preston Soderblom at the 5:34 mark of the first period, leading to a defensive struggle the rest of the way.
The playoff run was only a little surprising for Avalanche head coach Dan Carrick, who has been at the helm of the team each of the past three years. Carrick always had faith in his defense, even while everyone in the rink was on the edge of their seats.
"In the back of my mind I knew my defense was strong, but at the same time you only have that one-goal cushion," Carrick said Friday. "We were pretty much on the edge of our seats the entire time."
Avalanche goaltender Dylan Bonfiglio, who is set to return next year for the team, recorded 16 saves against 16 shots on net in a dominant showing as he took home the title game’s MVP honors.
Bonfiglio was a wall all year, going 12-0-1 while allowing just 14 goals and registering five shutouts, finishing with a 92% save mark.
The Avalanche offense put up 23 shots on Pinnacle goaltender Connor Dumesnil in the championship game, pushing the pace offensively.
The Avalanche allowed just two goals during their playoff run, as Cactus Shadows and Campo Verde each scored a goal in the first and second rounds of the tournament.
"They really showed up when they needed to and it was an entire team effort," Carrick said.
The Avalanche recorded eight shutouts in the regular season -- where the team never lost and had just a pair of ties -- as the strong showing set the pace for their dominant defensive run in the playoffs.
The goal set before the season was to compete for a title. The team did that plus some.
"This is one of those teams, we didn't really even have to push them," Carrick said. "They just bonded -- became brothers overnight. Everyone seemed to trust everyone. ... They really put that work in. Everyone seemed to have the same team goal, to win a state championship."
The team expects to bring back a solid chunk of the roster next season after it will see seven seniors graduate.
Christopher Wise carried most of the offensive load for the Avalanche, leading the team in goals and assists with 23 and 18 respectively for 41 total points in his 19 games of action.
Wise's 41 points and 23 goals led the D-II as well.
One other player hit the 10-goal mark as Oka Forsberg connected on 14 goals in 13 games.
Bonfiglio finished with most shutouts among D-II goaltenders and was tied for the lead in save percentage with Pinnacle's Dumesnil.
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