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March 20, 2011

So Cal scholastic inline wrap-up: Part III

San Diego County

Westview goaltender Greg Kurth recorded a rare shutout win in the 2011 Kiwanis Cup championship game as Wolverines won their third consecutive CIF-Metro Conference title. Photo/Phillip Brents

The four longest continuously operating scholastic inline hockey leagues in Southern California recently wrapped up their championship playoffs. The Central Coast High School Hockey League (CCHSHL) in the San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara area, the Interscholastic Hockey Federation (IHF) in Orange County and Inland Empire and the San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference (SDCHSRHC) all crowned club champions as they approached their 15th anniversary seasons.

The San Diego County-based CIF-Metro Conference, the state’s only high school league sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation, concluded its history making 11th season.

Reigning as 2010-11 varsity champions in the three club leagues are the Santa Barbara Chargers (CCHSHL), Mission Viejo Diablos (IHF) and San Pasqual Golden Eagles (SDCHSRHC) while the Westview Wolverines won their fourth CIF title in their six years as members of the Metro Conference.

Championship finals took place in mid-February and early March.

California Rubber takes a look at the two scholastic leagues in San Diego County - one club and one CIF - in the final part of a series of three in-depth championship wrap-up reports.

San Diego Club

The San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference was among the first scholastic inline hockey-specific leagues established in the state, starting in 1995-96, and continues to roll despite having its membership drop to only four teams this season.

But good things do come wrapped in small packages sometimes and San Pasqual continued to write its legacy as one of the top scholastic teams in Southern California - club and CIF combined - by claiming its fifth consecutive varsity playoff championship title. The Golden Eagles remain undefeated in league play over that span.

Included in San Pasqual’s storied championship run is a coveted NARCh Winternationals title in 2009.

San Pasqual finished the 2010-11 season 9-0 in regular season play to earn the top seed in the playoffs while Del Norte, just a second-year school without a senior class, finished 5-4 to secure the No. 2 seed. Following the two leaders were the Mt. Carmel Sundevils (3-6) and Escondido Cougars (1-8).

The Golden Eagles skated past fourth-seeded Escondido, 10-2, in the semifinals while Del Norte eliminated Mt. Carmel 8-6.

The championship game proved to be another one-sided affair for San Pasqual as the Golden Eagles soared past the Nighthawks 13-2. San Pasual led 11-0 before Del Norte scored its first goal.

Jake Escarcega  (three goals, four assists) and Thompson Teague (five goals, one assist) paced the victorious Golden Eagles in the championship game with seven and six points, respectively. They also received ample support from teammates Tyler Hatch (two goals, one assist), Sean Kilpatrick (one goal, one assist), Brad Golden (one goal, one assist), Joe Flynn (two assists) and Oscar Aquino (one goal).

Thomas Akerson led Del Norte with a goal and assist. T.J. Hunt scored the Nighthawks’ other goal in the title game.

San Pasqual is coached by Rick Hatch; Del Norte is coached by Jim Akerson.

Teague paced all varsity scorers with 23 goals and 32 points, followed by Del Norte’s Troy Grahl with 18 goals and 20 points and San Pasqual’s Escarcega (15 goals, 18 points) and Kilpatrick (11 goals, 16 points). Del Norte’s Eric Duong matched Kilpatrick’s totals to round out the league’s top five scorers.

Club roller hockey in San Diego County actually has one of the higher profiles in the state. Besides the four club varsity teams playing at the Escondido Sports Center, there are also 19 junior varsity teams and 11 junior high schools. The combined 34 varsity, JV and junior high teams make San Diego County one of the largest providers of the sport at the club level in California, rivaling Orange County's Interscholastic Hockey Federation and the in-house leagues at the Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose in terms of numbers of competing teams.  

Top-seeded Carlsbad defeated second-seeded Westview I, 6-5, to capture the JV-Gold playoff championship while Mira Mesa topped Vista, 6-2, to win the JV-Silver title and Army-Navy Academy shut out Westview II, 5-0, to win the JV-Bronze title.

Carlsbad and Westview I finished tied atop the regular season standings with identical 7-1-2 records.

In a trio of Junior High School club championships, Bernardo Heights/Meadowbrook defeated Mesa Verde/Twin Peaks, 9-1, to win the Gold Division title while Carmel Valley edged. Valley, 5-4, to win the Silver Division title and Roosevelt nipped. San Elijio, 8-6, to win the Bronze Division title.

Jack Gates of the Lions led the Junior High School scoring race with 34 goals and 14 assists for 48 points.

San Diego CIF

The CIF-Metro Conference owes its genesis to the older San Diego club league, with 12 of its current 17 members having started play at the club level.

Westview cemented a claim as the CIF league’s newest dynasty by rolling to its third consecutive Kiwanis Cup championship - its fourth in six years since joining the conference.

The Wolverines, however, were not favored to win this year’s title. The North County League champion Rancho Bernardo Broncos received the No. 1 seed while the Central League champion West Hills Wolf Pack, fielding the school’s best-ever team, was awarded the No. 2 seed. Westview received the No. 4 seed but pulled off an inspirational finish by winning all three of its playoff games - including two by one-goal margins, with one in overtime.

The Wolverines, who were guided by their theme song “The Strong Will Continue” throughout the playoffs, toppled the Nos. 1 and 2 playoff seeds in consecutive games to end the season with a bold exclamation point.

Junior Dillon Dixon, who scored the deciding goal in the Wolverines’ dramatic 6-5 overtime victory over top-seeded Rancho Bernardo in the semifinals, scored both goals in Westivew’s 2-0 championship game victory over West Hills. He called winning the title a “team effort.”

Senior goaltender Greg Kurth, son of Wolverines’ coach Mike Kurth, recorded the rare shutout win in the championship game, calling it the most memorable of his high school career.

The elder Kurth likens the perfect roller hockey game to a symphony where all instruments are in fine complement. “When everything is working together, it’s a beautiful song,” he said.

An epic ballad might be a better word choice to describe his team’s 2011 playoff odyssey.

The Wolverines (17-6) were on the brink of elimination in their opening quarterfinal matchup against fifth-seeded Scripps Ranch before goals by Willy Morrison (with 58 seconds to play) and Dixon (with 49 ticks left on the clock) turned a 4-3 deficit against the Falcons into a dramatic 5-4 victory.

West Hills, braced by nine travel team ice hockey players, finished the season 20-3. Wolf Pack coach Steve Baldwin called his team’s first-ever appearance in the championship finals a “huge boost” for the game in San Diego’s East County region where three rink closures in the past five years had all but eliminated the sport there.

“One of our goals is to win a CIF title, but our other goal is that we want to rebuild roller hockey in East County,” Baldwin said. “This is a great showing for East County.”

Prior to the climactic Kiwanis Cup championship game, the CIF-Metro Conference held its first-ever third place game, and it, too, went to the underdog team as the third-seeded Poway Titans (15-8) upended top-seeded Rancho Bernardo (18-5) by a score of 5-3. Ryan Hockett scored two goals and one assist to lead the Titans, who staved off a torrid comeback by the Broncos (down 4-1 early in the second period) on a goal by Connor Liebman with 58 seconds to play. Brian Gravelle led RB with two goals.

In reaching the finals, West Hills doubled up the score on Poway, winning 4-2 in the semifinals. Zack Peters and Spencer Galaas each scored first period goals to pace the Wolf Pack to a 2-0 lead. West Hills extended its lead to 3-1 on a power play goal by Joe Swanson in the second period and weathered two second period goals by the Titans’ Reed Kinsey to post the win. West Hills’ two power play markers proved to be the margin of victory.

Galaas, who would go on to earn CIF Player of the Year honors, led West Hills in the semifinal win with two goals and one assist.

Playoff Format

Each of the conference’s four league champions qualified for the Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs, with the remaining six best teams drawn in on an at-large basis. Mar Vista (10-2 in the South Bay League) and Eastlake (7-1 in he Mesa League) joined Rancho Bernardo (10-2 in the North County League) and West Hills (9-0 in the Central League) as the conference’s four automatic playoff qualifiers.

The top six teams received byes in the opening round of the Kiwanis Cup playoffs. The seventh-seeded La Jolla Country Day Torreys defeated the 10th-seeded Mar Vista Mariners, 18-1, while the ninth-seeded Otay Ranch Mustangs scored a mild upset by defeating the eighth-seeded Eastlake Titans 3-2.

Ryan Owsiany led the Torreys with seven goals and two assists while Scott Ibsen and Peter Kuetzing each collected four goals and three assists. Freshman Cole Beatie scored two goals and sophomore Joey Parisi scored once to lead Otay Ranch, which benefited from the solid play of sophomore netminder Greg Beatie.

The two first round winners then advanced to join the remaining six byed teams in the eight-team quarterfinals.

LJCD, the third-place finisher in the Central League, advanced against second-seeded West Hills, ending its season 11-11 overall following an 11-4 loss to the Wolf Pack. Otay Ranch, the Mesa League runner-up, advanced to meet top-seeded Rancho Bernardo, ending its season 12-10 overall with a 13-2 setback to the Broncos.

David Baldwin led the Wolf Pack with three goals while Cruz Major and Gravelle paced Rancho Bernardo with three goals and one assist each.

The other two quarterfinal contests both featured dramatic finishes, including Westview’s last minute two-goal comeback. Third-seeded Poway also needed a late goal, scored by Luke Richard with 1:41 left in the game, to squeeze past the sixth-seeded Cathedral Catholic Dons 4-3.

Cathedral Catholic, making the jump from the San Diego club league to CIF play this season, finished 13-8 overall, including a runner-up finish in Central League play. The Dons were keyed by ice/roller standout Justin Cintas, a member of this season's San Diego Gulls Junior A Tier III Western States Hockey League team.

Individual Honors

There was a tie for the 2010-11 CIF-Metro Conference individual scoring title as Eastlake’s Jace White (67 goals, 27 assists) and Otay Ranch's Ryan Trego (59 goals, 35 assists) both finished with 94 points. Otay Ranch’s Jon Managbanag (51 goals, 26 assists) finished third with 77 points while RB’s Kyle Shafer (36 goals, 35 assists) was the North County leader with 71 points, followed by Cathedral Catholic's Nick Sciabarra (47 goals, 20 assists) with 67 points.

White earned honors as the Mesa League Player of the Year while Shafer was named the North County League Player of the Year, joining West Hills’ Galaas (Central League) and Sweetwater’s Shawn Trimmer (South Bay League) as the conference’s four league players of the year.

Galaas, a teammate of Cintas on the WSHL Gulls, finished the season with 36 goals and nine assists for the Wolf Pack while dividing his team between the CIF inline and Junior A ice circuits.

Players from seven teams comprised this season’s all-conference selections First team forwards included RB’s Shafer and Eastlake’s White while first team defensive picks included West Hills’ Galaas and RB’s Cruz Major. RB’s Ryan Hicks earned honors as the 2010-11 first team all-conference goaltender.

Second team offensive selections included West Hills’ Eric Baldwin and Scripps Ranch’s Jonathon Gauthier while Scripps Ranch’s Brandon Lopez and Otay Ranch’s Trego landed berths as second team defensive picks. La Jolla Country Day goalkeeper Cameron Sowka earned second team all-conference honors.

Poway’s Dale Ingram was chosen as the CIF Coach of the Year.

High School Roller Hockey Scoreboard

2011 CIF-Metro Conference

Kiwanis Cup Playoffs
First round
Tuesday, Feb. 22
Skate San Diego
(7) La Jolla Country Day 18, (10) Mar Vista 1
(9) Otay Ranch 3, (8) Eastlake 2

Wednesday, Feb. 23
Escondido Sports Center
(1) Rancho Bernardo 13, (9) Otay Ranch 2
(2) West Hills 11, (7) La Jolla Country Day 4
(3) Poway 4, (6) Cathedral Catholic 3
(4) Westview 5, (5) Scripps Ranch 4

Monday, Feb, 28
Escondido Sports Center
(4) Westview 6, (1) Rancho Bernardo 5 (OT)
(2) West Hills (4, (3) Poway 2

Wednesday, March 2
Escondido Sports Center
Championship final
(4) Westview 2, (2) West Hills 0

Third place game
(3) Poway 5, (1) Rancho Bernardo 3

San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference
Varsity Division
(1) San Pasqual 10, (4) Escondido 2
(2) Del Norte 8, (3) Mt. Carmel 6

(1) San Pasqual 13, (2) Del Norte 2

Junior Varsity-Gold Division
(1) Carlsbad defeated (4) Escondido Charter, score unavailable
(2) Westview defeated (3) Temecula Valley, score unavailable

Gold Division: (1) Carlsbad 6, (2) Westview 5 
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