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Qualifiers offers opportunity for players to exceed personal and team goals

By Jack Williams, 03/10/24, 3:45PM EDT


HACKENSACK, N.J. — National bound qualifiers brings together a swath of talented young players, all from different places, of different ages and wearing every imaginable color and logo. Looking out across the mass of helmets and sticks, one thing unites all these seemingly disparate souls — their insatiable hunger for competition and dogged pursuit of national championship glory.

Making it to the postseason is never easy, and every team has plenty of speed bumps on the road to nationals. For some, it was learning to play as a cohesive unit. “We blamed each other a lot early on,” said 14U AA Snider Hockey defenseman Nick Previtera. “I think we had to learn to come together as a team as the year progressed.”

For others, the journey was plagued by plain bad luck. “The injuries have been really challenging,” remarked 16U AAA Philadelphia Jr. Flyers forward Hunter Haas. “Including me. I’ve been out with a shoulder injury, but I’m not the only one.” His teammate, forward Evan Kensey, chimed in: “We’ve had as many as nine players out at one time. Four season ending injuries. We just battled through it. We beat a team with just ten skaters one time. We battled through adversity.”

For these players, the camaraderie and opportunity to test their mettle make all the trials and tribulations worth it. “For me, the best part has always been all about playing the good teams and being with my friends doing it,” Kensey asserted. It is a sentiment that 18U AA Philadelphia Blazers goalie Ian Schmitt agrees with wholeheartedly.  “It’s good to compete,” he said. “We’re a good team, so we’ve played at a high level the whole season.”


To Schmitt, only one thing can quench his thirst for competition - a national championship. “We want to win districts and then a national championship,” he asserted. “It would mean everything. I’ve never been, but this team’s come close a couple of times. They went to the finals last year and lost. Everyone on the team wants to go. That is everyone’s goal.”

Indeed, that seems to be everyone’s goal, but not always for the same reason. For some, making it to Nationals is more about the opportunity. “It would be an amazing experience,” Kensey said with a grin. “Just being able to play the best teams in front of all the scouts out there would be a huge opportunity for all of us.”

Meanwhile, his teammate wanted a different kind of opportunity — the chance to play with his teammates one more time. “Nationals would mean the world to me because I would be able to come back and play by then,” said Haas. “It’s been really hard to watch from the sidelines. I want to get in there and help my teammates, and nationals would allow me to do that.”