BOUNTIFUL – The Viewmont Vikings hockey team is headed to the nationals tournament for the second consecutive season.
Only this time, they will be going as the state champions.
“Last year at nationals the boys played hard and did a great job,” said Vikings coach Roger Barrus. “This year’s trip will be the same. There is an expectation as a state champion to do a good job on and off the ice as we represent Utah. I think (the players) know they feel a little pressure because of that.”
Last season the Vikings were given the opportunity to go when Judge Memorial, the team that wont the state championship last season, decided not to go.
That left the door open for Viewmont, which jumped at the chance and took off for the tournament held in Florida.
They finished 0-3 in pool play and didn’t advance to the next round, but the remaining players had an idea of what to expect if they had a chance to return to the tournament this year.
“Our record (at the tournament) may not have reflected it, but I felt our team played well,” said assistant coach Scott Hinerman. “We gained valuable experience that has helped us prepare for Omaha. The tournament will also be a lot of fun for our guys. It’ll be something they’ll remember being a part of for the rest of their lives.”
Many of the players returning to nationals are seniors Tanner Bangerter, Sam Ostler and the “Wiser line” of Jacob, Jeremy and Tyler.
Jacob and Jeremy are twin brothers, and Tyler is their cousin.
Others include Riggs Zeidler and Junior Varsity captain Mason Boam.
“Jacob and Jeremy are both incredibly talented players that have a lot of finesse, creativity and heart,” said Hinerman. “Tyler is a physical center with great hands, and when the three of them are joined together they comprise one of the best lines in the state.”
Zeidler, said Hinerman, brought a leadership role to the team and has the speed and ability to play forward and defenseman.
Bangerter was another physical presence to the team this season and made multiple plays that helped the Vikings capture the state title this season.
While expectations this season may be higher due to its state title win, Barrus said the team plans on taking each game seriously, but also wants to make sure they’re having fun.
“Nationals is a reward for all the hard work they have put in this year and I want them to have a great time,” he said. “The players can’t wait and I’m excited that they want to play against the best to see how they compare.”
Barrus also said being a part of the coaching staff is an honor, and he knows the players will give it their full effort when the tournament starts.
“All they can do is go out there and play the way they’ve been playing,” he said. “Anything less than that will be a disappointment to them. The coaching staff is lucky to have a group of young men who can push themselves. It’s an honor to coach them.”
The tournament starts on Wednesday, March 26. The championship game will be played on Sunday.