"North to the Future"
The state motto of Alaska is meant to symbolize hope, representing a belief that our nation's 49th state and its geopgraphical position embody a bright and hopeful future. After the success that many Alaskan natives found in the Emerald Valley this season, it appears that the future is certainly bright just south of The Last Frontier.
It's been no secret that Head Coach Justin Kern returned to his roots this past offseason and dove head-first into the Alaska talent pool hoping to re-tool this year's Generals roster. As a result, the decision to look North in seach of future Generals has helped fuel the Generals return to the postseason while posting the team's best point total since the 2012-13 season en route. That core of Alaskan talent constitutes the backbone of this year's team as one-third (eight total players) of this year's roster hails from our nation's northernmost state.
Leading the pack of Alaskans that flocked South before this season was Cody Arbelobsky, a Kenai native and former standout forward with Kenai Central High School. Like many players on this year's team, Cody entered this season as a newcomer to the junior hockey world and thus wasn't sure what to expect upon making the big jump. That adjustment didn't come easy, but it didn't come without encouragement from those close to him, either. Perhaps moreso than anyone else, his sister Amber served as a primary motivator in helping him make the leap into junior hockey.
"I told him, point blank," Amber said directly, "that if he was serious about going to the next level, he needed to either go to Anchorage or make the leap into junior hockey." However, privately, Amber admitted that she was apprehensive about her younger brother making the jump. "I was very nervous for Cody," Amber recalled. "For him to move all the way down to Eugene was a big, big move, and althoguh I knew it's what he needed to do, I was still nervous about seeing him leave and wondering how he'd adjust." Her worries were quickly put to rest as Cody didn't take long to start hitting his stride in his first Juniors season, ultimately finishing the regular season with 18 goals and 41 total points, both good for second on the team.
The simultaneous confidence and cautiousness that she holds regarding her brother perfectly embodies their relationship and many other sibling relationships; a mixture of competetiveness and compassion for one another, with competitiveness often winning out. However, the love that the two share for each other is readily apparent, and that love is at its most obvious when the two hit the ice, which was often in unision while growing up.
Believe it or not, the first sport listed on Amber's impressive athletic résumé is, of all things, cheerleading. However, after being dragged into taking countless trips to the ice rink to cheer on Cody, hockey must've slowly sunk in to her subconscious, and it wasn't long until she was hooked and eagerly signing up to join Cody on a squirt-level team. That would set a trend that would last for half a decade as both Amber and Cody often found themselves skating on the same team, and even occasionally on the same lines, with Amber usually finding herself as the only female player on a typically all-boys team.
The trend of suiting up on the same team continued all the way through their bantam years until Amber finally made the switch and began playing girls hockey once she reached the U-16 level. However, her brother strongly believes that her past playing with the boys has been a major contributing factor into her current style of play. "She’s kind of a different hockey player, she’s a little more... rough," Cody mentions with a smirk. “You can really tell the developmental difference. The girl's game places a much higher emphasis on skill and skill alone, but the men's game is obviously a bit more physical, and that certainly shows in how she plays. She's tough, real tough."
That toughness has paid major dividends as Amber has racked up plenty of accolades and trophies since transitioning to the Girls game, both on and off of the ice, including a 3.75 GPA in the classroom and plenty of college programs guaging her interest to play for them. Most recently, Amber was crowned as a 2016 USA Hockey Pacific District Champion after her and the Alaska All Stars U-19AA Girls Team rolled through this year's tournament, which concluded this past Sunday in Anchorage, Alaska. Amber and the All Stars put together perhaps the best performance of the tournament by any team at any level, outscoring their opponents 28-0 en route to a perfect 5-0-0 record, the only team to do so at any level.
Congratulations to the Alaska All Stars, the 2015-16 Pacific District Tier II 19U AA Girls Champions! #PacTourney— USA Hockey Pacific (@PacificHockey) March 7, 2016
Now, it's Cody's turn to hoist some hardware as he'll hope to lead the Generals to their first Cascade Cup in franchise history. You can follow the Generals run through the Cascade Cup Playoffs on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to hurry and purchase your tickets for Games Three and Four (if necessary) of the first round matchup with the Bellingham Blazers.