The Las Vegas Golden Knights sled hockey team defeated the reigning champion Arizona Coyote Parahockey to capture its first Pacific Coast Sled Hockey League championship.
Arizona Coyote Parahockey and the Las Vegas Golden Knights sled hockey team faced off twice this past weekend during the Pacific Coast Sled Hockey League championship tournament.
The Golden Knights won both matches (11-2 on Saturday and 8-1 on Sunday), dominating the Coyotes at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz., and taking the Pacific Coast League Cup from the defending champions in the process.
After game one, the Coyotes had to fight back in the consolation bracket to earn a chance to face the Golden Knights in the finals. The Coyotes narrowly earned a spot in Sunday’s final matchup after they squeaked out a 5-4 shootout victory against the San Diego Ducks.
In Sunday’s championship rematch, Ahmed “Sal” Karimzada led the Golden Knights and all scorers with two goals and three assists. Isaac Escobedo also had two goals in the championship. Escobedo, who is originally from Tucson, is also a member of the Team USA Sled Hockey Developmental team and was excited to play in his home state.
“It’s really fun to be going to Phoenix,” Escobedo says. “[I] have been practicing for a while and I get to show off my skills.”
The Coyotes’ lone goal in the championship matchup came late in the third period on a power play as Coyotes forward Miguel Vargas put the puck just over the head of Golden Knights goaltender Hope Bevilhymer with an assist from Coyotes captain and coach Paul Crane.
Crane says the Coyotes played much better than he expected in the matchup given the circumstances of playing multiple matches on Sunday.
“We had an early morning game this morning and we were a bit tired. They didn’t have that early game. Passing on their side was effective because of our exhaustion,” Crane says. “In the second game, we didn’t think we were going to do as well as we did. We didn’t think we’d have as much in the tank as we did, so we were pretty impressed with how we shut them out in the second period.”
Late in the first period, Arizona’s Matt Giacobbe replaced starter Gabby Graves-Wake in goal. Graves-Wake allowed six goals on eight shots before being relieved. Giacobbe had a scoreless second period and allowed two goals in the third period. This was his first appearance since having the flu for the last two weeks.
Crane says a change had to be made.
“Some easy goals went in, so it needed to happen,” Crane says.
Keeping with the tradition of the tournament, the winner each year gets to host the tournament the following year. This brought excitement for some of the Las Vegas players including starting goalie Dave Nicholls.
“I think you are going to have a good crowd [next year]. Hockey is really hot in Vegas right now with all the sheets they have, [and] they are building another sheet and a rink,” Nicholls says. “I think you’ll have a really good crowd, a lot of spectators and a lot of competition, too. I have a feeling that the Coyotes are hungry and want this trophy back.”
Crane acknowledged he is looking forward to going to Las Vegas and taking the trophy back.
“Oh yeah. I’m definitely looking forward to that,” Crane says. “We have to get more practice. Practice, practice and more practice. We also need to get more funding so we can get more ice time.”
Las Vegas will host the Pacific Coast League Sled Hockey Championship in 2021 for the first time. Currently, there is no specific date set for the tournament.