Two North Suncoast teams recently won the national titles that had eluded them by extending their search for talent beyond Hernando and Citrus counties.
Spring Hill residents still were heavily involved, however, as the under-10 and under-14 ProJoy Predators won their divisions at the Tournament of Roller Hockey Series in Alpharetta, Ga.
"It was just unbelievable," said Spring Hill's Jay Jimenez, who coached the under-10s. "We've gone for the last couple of years, and out of the four teams we took, two won national titles. It was just amazing."
ProJoy, which derives its name from its jersey-manufacturer sponsor, also took under-8 and under-12 teams to the event, which is the first of two major tournaments this month.
ProJoy will participate in the North American Roller Hockey Championships July 20-Aug. 1 in Estero.
The under-14s went 6-0 in Alpharetta. It won the championship over the St. Louis Blaze when Palm Harbor's Blair Pontius scored his only goal of the tournament in a shootout. The Predators trailed 3-1 in the third period before Joey Peters and Todd McClure scored in the final minutes to force overtime.
Tampa's Bruce Zas led the under-14s with 10 points (four goals, six assists) followed by Citrus County's Jerry Peters (eight goals, one assist) and DeLand's Robby Enamit (five goals, four assists).
Spring Hill's Kevin Shuster had three points, and Steve Poteet had two.
The ProJoy under-10s had a longer route but were just as dominant. It finished 8-0 and beat the Long Island Bulldogs 5-2 in the final.
Spring Hill's Joey Puricelli and Pinellas County's Chad Goodwin scored twice in the final, and Pinellas County's Cory MacDonald had a goal and an assist.
Goodwin led the Predators with 14 goals and 11 assists. MacDonald had 15 goals and eight assists, and Puricelli had 11 goals and seven assists. Spring Hill's Brad Wyant had two assists.
The under-8s went 3-1 in round robin play but lost 4-1 to the Louisiana Sharpshooters in the quarterfinals. The under-12s went 3-1 in the round robin and lost 3-1 to Skaters Xtreme in the first round.
The Predators were known as Sabres Roller Hockey and based in Spring Hill until last season. They changed names upon gaining an exclusive Florida sponsorship with ProJoy (they'll share it with a team on Florida's east coast next year) and swapped venues when an all-hockey facility opened in Port Richey.
"We put a lot of work into the program," said Barry Peters, the under-14 coach and program director. "We took kids from a bigger area this year to get a higher level of talent, up to about 40 miles. The only rule we have is the kids have to be able to make it to practice, and that's up to the parents."
The Predators currently have 50 players in under-8, under-10, under-12 and under-14 teams. Peters said the league probably will add another under-10 and under-12 team next year.