"I love it," remarked Tori Hickel of Anchorage, Alaska after practicing in the Ice Haus Arena. "The (rink's) really big and really nice."
The North American Hockey Academy and Jay Peak signed an agreement in May making the resort's Ice Haus Arena the academy's home rink. NAHA, as it is known, also entered into a lease-to-purchase contract with a local hotel to become the property's sole tenant, giving the organization a new headquarters. NAHA had previously been located in Stowe, VT, but decided to move after a campaign to fund a new skating facility failed, and their home rink closed for the summer.
"We are really excited about the move," remarked Jesse Driscoll, a head coach for NAHA. "It's important for us to have the community support our mission, and when we saw what Jay Peak was doing with the new (Ice Haus) arena, the move was a no-brainer."
The time at the resort was brief however as the main focus of the holiday weekend was the 10th Annual Labor Day tournament in Burlington. Thirty-five teams competed in the Under-17 and Under-19 Divisions. Squads from as far away as British Columbia kicked off their seasons at the college-recruiting showcase with over 100 coaches from U.S. and Canadian universities traveling to see the teams and players.
"The (Labor Day) tournament is a great opportunity for the girls to get on the radar of D1 schools," said Driscoll. "They really bring their A-game and play some exciting hockey."
Almost every college with a Division 1 hockey program had recruiters present at the tournament. And the girls from NAHA did not miss the opportunity to impress them.
After falling behind 2-0 in the finals of the U-19 Division, NAHA clawed their way up to tie the game, with Paige Savage of Johns Creek, GA hammering two goals into the net. With only five seconds remaining in regulation play, Toni Miano of Bronx, NY flipped a pass to Anchorage's Hickel who tipped the puck in for the winning score.
"I'm excited about the season," said Hickel. "I love Vermont. It's a lot like Alaska; just not as many moose."
NAHA begins classes and full-time training on September 23rd. Visit winter-hawks.org for the schedule of play.
Visit jaypeakresort.com for the latest resort information.