Warriors take second at Nationals

After a nearly perfect season and winning the Midwest High School Hockey League (MHSHL) state championship, they were one goal away from the national title.

The Waterloo Warriors hockey team is a club team that consists of players from all around the Cedar Valley.

The Warriors have had some great seasons, but this year was special. The Warriors were invited to play in the national hockey tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, because they were the top team in their league.

There were 18 teams in the tournament from all over the country. This year marked the third annual National High School Hockey Tournament.

On March 20, the team boarded a bus en route to Minneapolis to fly to Salt Lake City to play in this once-in-a-lifetime tournament.

In the early rounds in Salt Lake City, the Warriors defeated three teams in regulation: the Washington Hornets (12-1), Pinnacle Pioneers (4-3) and the Brophy Broncos (6-4). They also played the Santa Margarita Eagles (2-1) and defeated the Pinnacle Pioneers (10-1) one more time before advancing to the National Title game against the Regis Jesuit Raiders out of Colorado. Regis Jesuit is an all-male school that is very oriented on hockey. The Warriors fell short by one goal in the national title game to a very talented Regis Jesuit team.

Doug Dietz, head coach of the Warriors, said he is proud of the way the team performed in the National Tournament despite the outcome.

“The one goal is a hard pill to swallow. I’ve viewed a few video clips of the game and feel we let it slip away, but I am very proud of the way the boys played and what they put on the line to win,” Dietz said.

The Warriors had a two-goal lead and the momentum going into the second period, but then the team hit some penalty problems, which set them back.

David Becker, a senior at West High School in Waterloo, recapped the game.

“We came out strong and got a two-goal lead, but they [Regis Raiders] battled us back and scored four unanswered goals for a 4-3 lead. We got one back but ended up losing 4-3,” Becker said.

In the last moments of the game Dietz pulled his netminder, Chance Kremer of Hudson High School, for the extra skater.

Staci Jackson, the team representative, said the team has a lot to be proud of.

“It was a little disappointing to come up short, but this team should be proud of their accomplishments this year,” Jackson said.

Cedar Falls junior, Jon Skarlis, proved to be a key player for the Warriors during the National Tournament. Skarlis was sixth on the team in points in the regular season with 38 to his name in just 34 regular season games.

“The only thing I would change is that last game, except that, nothing at all. I couldn’t ask for anything better than this year,” Skarlis said.

The Warriors boarded a plane on March 25 to head back to Iowa. The team was supported by about 55 parents, relatives and fans that made the trip out to Utah.

There were countless moments that the team will remember forever.

“All the accomplishments we achieved together. We broke records this year that other people in the state might not ever come close to,” Becker said.

One of the largest public Warrior hockey games happened this season. The Warriors ‘Pack the House’ night brought out 2,300+ fans to support the team. Compared to the usual few hundred, this was an exciting experience.

Jackson said he thinks that the ‘Pack the House’ night was a great experience for the team.

“The entire community got behind these boys and came out to support them. For some of these guys, that will be the biggest crowd they will ever play for, and it was great that we beat a rival team in front of a crowd that large,” Jackson said.

The Warriors had a nearly perfect season, but they are losing five seniors who were key to the team’s success this year. Dietz says that doesn’t change his expectations of next years team.

“I’m hoping that the remaining kids and a few freshman from this year’s team can get strong and develop to help the team next year,” Dietz said.

The Warriors were recognized at intermission of the Waterloo Black Hawks game on Saturday, March 31.

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