BRANDON – When the Florida Fire Ants competed March 6-9 in the 2014 AAU/USA National Ice Hockey Championships in Minnesota, “no one up North gave these kids a chance,” said Gary Parkhurst, associate head coach.
But then the 8- and 9-year-old, Mite A-division Florida Fire Ants won every game in the tournament, proving “them very wrong,” said Parkhurst.
Overall, they outscored opposing teams from Michigan, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Texas and Minnesota by an 85 to 6 margin.
“Now we have a team of national champions in the Brandon area,” Parkhurst said.
Head coach Al Hargest said, “Hockey at this age is all about having fun, building friendships and making memories. The winning was just a bonus.”
Nevertheless, at the moment of their final victory, “the kids looked like professional players celebrating,” said Parkhurst. “Sticks and gloves were flying in the air. After celebrating, the boys received their National Championship gold medal and ring.”
The team, with assistant coach Greg Coffin and manager Larry Lampinen, practices at the Ice Sports Forum Brandon, the home rink of the Central Florida Hockey League Jr. Bulls travel hockey program.
The Florida Fire Ants “is a new team that we put together for this tournament,” said Parkhurst.
Most of the boys are from the Jr. Bulls program in Brandon, but two are from Fort Myers and one from Ellenton, he said. The majority have been playing for three to four years.
Lucas St. Louis, son of former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis, scored six goals and had four assists as he played his last games with his Brandon teammates in this tournament, before moving to Connecticut. His father now plays for the New York Rangers.
Forward/defenseman Peter Tedeschi scored 18 goals and had 8 assists. Forward Kegan Lampinen scored 14 goals with 4 assists. Goaltender Aiden Gambone saved all 34 shots fired at him by the Florida Fire Ants’ opponents.
All the players who competed in the tournament, except the goalies, Gambone and Nicholas Almeida, scored at least two goals apiece: Jacob Fuller, Ty Creech, Troy Maldonado, Trey Wandall, Nikolas Weppner, Skogen Schrott, Nathan Hargest, Ethan Carstens, Noah Coffin and Cole Parkhurst.
The Ice Sports Forum Brandon teaches youth and adult hockey and has recreational and travel teams for players ages 5 to 18. For information call (813) 684-7825.
Barbara Routen is a freelance correspondent and may be contacted at [email protected]