Ice Cats skate to state supremacy

The Douglas Ice Cats celebrate after winning their second consecutive 14U state championship, defeating the Casper Oilers 12-4 in the finals Sunday, March 8 in Casper.

The Douglas Ice Cats are the 2020 14U Wyoming Amateur Hockey League champions, finishing off a perfect 23-0 season with an 12-4 victory over the rival Casper Oilers in Sunday afternoon’s championship game.

The victory marks this group’s third-straight state championship, one of which was in the 12U division.

The Ice Cats dominated their opposition throughout the entire season, outscoring their opponents 230-34 in their 20 regular season games, and 35-7 in the three state championship tournament games.

“We just always work together as a team,” head coach Chad Forsman said. “They believe in each other and build each other up instead of tearing each other down. All the kids really buy in and we have some great leaders who lead by example but also inspire the other kids to play well.”

The Ice Cats had a 6-2 lead behind Preston Hytrek’s three goals to close out the initial period of the championship game, but the Oilers chipped it down to a two-goal game and kept it close for the second period. Emotions ran high in the aggressive game. Players from each team traded comments back and forth.

All in all, the teams added up for 14 penalties, including roughing, elbowing and unsportsmanlike conduct.

It was a hard-hitting game, but pretty typical of what happens when these teams meet on the ice, according to Forsman.

“They are always a very aggressive team, but I think part of it is that the kids we have from Casper played with those kids growing up. Having left Casper to come play for Douglas I think has raised some of that animosity. It has been like that for the last several years, it adds a lot of heat and chippiness to the game.

“Most of it comes from us both being aggressive and successful teams though. Both sides know to be the best we’ll probably have to go through them.”

The Ice Cats defeated Jackson and Laramie before playing Casper in the finals.

Leading the way through the tournament were Hytrek, Hunter Lane, Rhys Roark and Liam Cobb.

Lane paced the team in goals with nine while dishing out three assists for a team-high 12 points at the tournament. Hytrek, the regular season’s goals and points leader, scored seven goals with two assists and Roark added another three goals and a team-high five assists. Roark also led the team in assists during the regular season with 39.

Cobb continued to show why he is among the top goalies in the state, allowing just two goals per game with 41 saves and a 87.2 save percentage on the way to picking up all three victories.

Although the team has won three championships in a row, they haven’t always been so superior compared to the rest of the league. In fact, they came in last place the first year the core group played together, and were the underdogs the previous two championship runs.

“Each one has been so different,” Forsman said of the seasons played. “The first year we won in the Pee Wee league we weren’t the one seed coming in, we just gelled at the right time. Last year there was a team in Laramie that was stacked and we went to the tournament as a four-seed behind Gillette, Casper and Laramie, and still came out with a championship.

“This year we come in undefeated and there’s way more pressure. Previous years we had nothing to lose, but this year we had to go out and prove we were the best and that we deserve this still. It’s awesome because even though it’s so different the thrill and the excitement are still there. It’s really cool and I think it speaks to their character being able to play through different circumstances.”

Many of those core players will make the move up to 18U next season, playing with kids older and bigger than themselves.

Forsman will try to make the jump to continue coaching his son Olyn, and believes that they will walk in and make an impact right away despite being younger.

“The 18U team has some really good returning talent and I think these kids will come in right away and make the team even better. I expect that will be a really strong team with a lot of opportunity to be successful.”

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