Independent Teams Fill Unique Void In Utah High School Hockey
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Imagine growing up playing hockey with all your friends and when you finally get to high school, you find out your high school doesn’t have a team. Hockey in Utah is unsanctioned by the UHAA.
Some years a school will have enough players to make a team, and some years they won’t.
Take Viewmont High, for example. After years of having a top varsity team and sometimes multiple junior varsity teams, this year they almost didn’t have enough players to field a team at all. Had Viewmont not been able to field a team, those players would have needed a place to play to get that high school hockey experience.
Independent teams have been a part of Utah High School Hockey almost since inception. Independent teams are typically named after their regions, Northern Utah Independent (NUI), Utah County Independent (UCI), and so on.
There are independent teams in Division 1, Division 2 and even junior varsity. They play against the schools with affiliated clubs until playoffs, when they compete for the Independent State Championship.
Fans from several different high schools come together and cheer for the same team.
This year the front runner has been NUI, who are 13-1. UCI North is close behind, at 12-1-2, and the Salt Lake Stars are giving a good push with a 9-5-1 record. The NUI Knights duo of Cole Van Orman and Tucker Thorstad have been tearing up Division 1, with 33 and 27 points respectively.
Deklin Clark has put up 32 points for the UCI- North Warriors and the Stars leading scorer is Jack Kuemmel. Oquirrh will look to make up some ground in the standings over the next week and are led by Ian Murray and his 32 points in 14 games.
So far this season, the best independent goalie has been the Warriors Chance Lees, with a respectable 93 percent save average.
So, as the high school hockey playoffs begin and you notice crowds made up of letterman jackets from a bunch of different schools cheering for the same team, know that, once again,
the independent teams are filling the void and letting Utah kids experience high school hockey and a run for the state championship.
Utah Puck Report is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or on KSLSports.com.