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Easily claiming Knox title, Ice Dawgs begin

Perfect in 14 games against three Knox County high school opponents — including four against Farragut — the Bearden Ice Dawgs realize tougher tasks lie ahead as they prepare for the opening round of Predators Cup state tournament action this week at the Icearium.

With Nashville and Memphis teams waiting for the defending state champs, “Our coach has prepared us well,” said Andrew Nickels, leading goal scorer in Knox County, about BHS head coach John Cox. “We’ve accomplished what we wanted to so far.”

Added BHS teammate Jay Cox, “The level of play in Nashville and Memphis is a lot higher than it is here. It’ll be a good challenge for us in the playoffs.”

Bearden carries its 14-0 record into round-robin play this weekend against Nashville’s No. 2 team (Pope John Paul II) and No. 3 team (Montgomery Bell Academy), and the Memphis No. 2 squad (Houston). Action begins at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, March 3 (BHS vs. Pope John Paul II), 4:45 p.m. (MBA) and 7:45 a.m., Sunday, March 4 (Houston).

Ice Dawgs standout Daane Blocksma said the level of play coming to the Icearium this weekend is “overall a lot more consistent, a lot more faster-paced. It can be a lot higher level of play.”

However, “generally, as a team, we play up to our opponents,” Blocksma said, adding the Ice Dawgs are “a stronger team overall, we’re more of a team” than the 2006 state champs.

With four other teams competing in Nashville, including Knox County’s Warriors (a compilation of players from westside private schools), the top two teams left standing at each site meet in Nashville to compete in Tennessee high school hockey’s “Final Four” for the Predators Cup state crown March 16-17.

Bearden earned this weekend’s appearance at the Icearium by defeating the Warriors 8-2 in the Knoxville championship “Moore Cup” game Feb. 22.

The Warriors, seeded No. 3 among Knox teams entering the local tourney, pulled a minor upset by beating No. 2 seed Farragut 4-3 in the semifinals while Bearden defeated Metro (compilation of players from other Knoxville public schools).

In the Knox title game, Blocksma led the Ice Dawgs with three goals. Nickels and Cox each punched in two goals, with Chad Miracle adding one.

Assist-wise, Cox led with four , Nickels three, Miracle two and Michael Vekasi one.

Warriors goals came from John Adorno and Jordan Howanitz.


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