Following the lead of their namesake, the Vegas Junior Golden Knights have won the West in unprecedented fashion.
The Pee-Wee AA 12-and-under hockey team recently claimed the crown of the International Silver Stick Western regional qualifying tournament at the Las Vegas Ice Center.
It’s the first time in the 14-year history of the event in Las Vegas that the city’s Pee-Wee team has prevailed.
The victory by the Junior Knights — ranked 11th of more than 1,100 teams across the country — earned them an invitation to the 57th annual Silver Stick Finals in Port Huron, Michigan, on Jan. 23-27.
Before winning the West, the Junior Knights also became the first Las Vegas Pee-Wee team to earn an invitation to the 60th Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 13-24.
“It’s a pretty big honor,” coach Kevin Mulcahy said. “It’s really unprecedented from a small market. We made three teams out of 45 players and we compete. Every other city we play against has 200 or 300 kids come to tryouts for 16 players.”
The Knights went 5-0 at the regional tournament and knocked off four nationally ranked teams along the way. Vegas outlasted the No. 6 Anaheim Junior Ice Dogs 5-4 in overtime in the title game. The Knights erased an early 2-0 deficit before Tyler “Fuzzy” Atachison scored the winning goal less than two minutes into the extra session off a pass by Jack Lackas, son of assistant coach Bo Lackas.
“The biggest key is we can run 16 guys at any given time in any given game situation. We win a lot of our games in the second and third period, because we’re so deep,” Mulcahy said. “We can just keep rolling three lines, five defensemen and two goalies.”
Vegas beat the Valencia Flyers 8-0 in the tourney opener before defeating the No. 25 Anaheim Junior Ducks 6-0 and the Ice Dogs 4-2. The Knights skated to a 6-2 victory over the Dallas Junior Stars to advance to the final.
The team has gone 33-11 this season while playing tournaments in Arizona, California, Utah, Texas and Idaho.
“We’re playing the toughest teams we can find everywhere we go. Our goal is to play up. We don’t want to play down,” Mulcahy said.
The team is made up of players from all over Southern Nevada.
Along with Atachison and Lackas, the Junior Knights feature Trevor Abele, Kaden Mulcahy, Connor Beers, Daniel Maddison, Carson Craig, Finn McNabb, Caden Ross, Casey Berninger, Colin Spencer, Chayse Laurie, Chase Nehring, Jessie Brewer, Logan Perez and Austin Neill.
“It was really fun,” Kaden Mulcahy, a defenseman, on winning the Western regional. “It meant that we are now a hockey town and we can play with the best of them. … We are a team and play like one. We have 16 all-star players.”
Fellow defenseman Beers echoed his teammate’s enthusiasm about the victory.
“Also, a major factor to our team’s wins and accomplishments is our team chemistry and friendship,” he said.
Kevin Mulcahy declined to single out players but said the scoring is very balanced.
“We’re very similar to the Knights. We don’t have a team captain,” he said. “They monitor themselves and keep each other in check.”
Besides the Vegas Golden Knights lending their name, the NHL franchise hosts a monthly high-performance camp for the Pee-Wee team.
“The kids get to work with all of the coaching staff on and off the ice for a few hours a month, so it’s pretty awesome,” Mulcahy said.
However, the NHL team isn’t covering the considerable costs of the Junior Knights’ upcoming trips to Michigan and Quebec. The Pee-Wee team is trying to raise $100,000 for airfare, hotel and transportation for the 16 players and 16 parents.
“That doesn’t even include food,” Mulcahy said. “It’s a big unexpected expense on parents.”
Those interested can donate at Jrgoldenknightshockey.com or by calling Mulcahy at 702-604-9500.
The Vegas Junior Golden Knights are set to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational from Jan. 19-21 at the Las Vegas Ice Center, 9295 W. Flamingo Road, Suite 130.