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Broncos top Wolverines to win CIF Kiwanis Cup

 

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The San Diego County-based Metro Conference, the state’s lone scholastic inline hockey league sanctioned by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), closed out its 18th consecutive season of operation with its annual Don Cerone/Kiwanis Cup championship finals March 5 at the Escondido Sports Center.

The championship game featured a rematch of last season’s final won by the Westview Wolverines in overtime over the Rancho Bernardo Broncos. This year, the top-seeded Broncos exacted a measure of revenge by posting a 6-0 win over the third-seeded Wolverines.

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In the third-place consolation game, the second-seeded Scripps Ranch Falcons defeated the fourth-seeded Eastlake Titans by a score of 6-3.

The Kiwanis Cup championship was the fifth for Rancho Bernardo, which came close to matching its 20-0 championship season in 2015 with a 20-1 record this season.

Westview, which had entered this year’s championship game with a string of six Kiwanis Cup titles since 2006, including the last two, finished the season 15-6.

“We had a game plan during the season that worked for us and it paid off big time in the championship game,” explained Rancho Bernardo head coach Joey Gelsomino, whose team won the regular season North County League title. “Knowing you can count on all three aspects of the game is something we thrive on. Our goaltender, Jakob Ogan, had a statement game, our defense kept the majority off their shots to the outside for Ogan to see and our forwards pressed smart and crashed the net in the offensive zone.

“We knew we had to keep up the pressure and momentum against Westview. They are a team filled with talent and heart. Just look at the season they had — they never blink an eye, they can climb that mountain no matter what’s in front of them. Since a good chunk of the players were from last year’s team, I think they knew and understood how to start and, most importantly, how to finish.

“It’s always bittersweet when the season comes to an end but it’s great to finish out our season on top.”

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Ike Frankel scored four goals and Ogan stopped all 20 shots he faced to lead the Broncos past Westview.

The Broncos used two Frankel goals to lead 2-0 after the first period. Frankel tacked on two more goals in the second period to double the RB lead and teammate Kiril Yampolsky scored a power play goal late in the period to hike the Broncos lead to 5-0.

Assistant captain Nik Thomas scored the lone goal in the third period. Thomas finished the game with one goal and three assists. Yampolsky collected a goal and assist while team captain Miles Cook had two assists. Alex Pang also recorded one assist in the championship game victory.

With the win, the Broncos avenged their only loss this season – that coming to the Wolverines in the final game of regular season play.

“I think we made them mad when we beat them to spoil their undefeated season,” Westview head coach Ron Smith said. “They were extremely sharp and capitalized on each and every mistake we committed. We really felt good going into the CIF championship game after our huge upset overtime win against Scripps Ranch in the semis. Jacob Ogan was solid in net and seemed to get more and more confident as we peppered him with shots.

“I’m super proud of our Westview High School varsity kids with their perseverance and determination of never giving up. They proved over the season by starting behind early in the games and finishing strong in the end.”

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Even down 4-0 in the championship game, Smith said he felt as though his team still had a chance to come back.

“We just needed that first goal to get things rolling,” Smith said.

Both head coaches were complimentary of their championship game opponent.

“Two great programs going head-to-head,” Gelsomino noted. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

“We always appreciate playing against a strong classy program like Rancho Bernardo High School,” Smith said. “Congratulations to the RBHS coaches, skaters and their families. Thanks for a great season.”

Bronze medal game

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Scripps Ranch (18-3), one of the favorites in the preseason to win this year’s Kiwanis Cup championship title, took a 2-0 first period lead and sped in front 4-1 through two periods before holding on to capture the victory in the tournament’s consolation game. Kyle Fraser lead the Falcons with two goals and two assists while teammate Leo Gaffrey scored twice.

Mesa League champion Eastlake (24-2), owners of a 23-0 regular season record, received a goal and assist apiece from Mesa League Player of the Year Will Hamilton and teammate Jake Powell. Luke Killeen also scored for the Titans, who compiled a 17-14 edge in shots in the game.

Road to the championship

Twelve of the conference’s 17 teams qualified for this year’s Kiwanis Cup playoffs.

Rancho Bernardo defeated eighth-seeded Poway High School 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Feb. 26 and Eastlake, 6-2 in the semifinals on Feb. 28 to advance to the championship round.

Westview defeated the sixth-seeded Escondido Charter White Tigers 7-5 in the quarterfinals and recorded a 6-5 upset win in overtime over Scripps Ranch in the semifinals.

The Broncos received points from seven players in rolling past Poway (4-17). Thomas led RB with five goals while Cook contributed two goals and two assists. Goaltender Ethan Shute stopped all nine shots he faced to record the shutout victory.

Eastlake entered the semifinals with a conference best 24-0 record after posting a 7-4 win over the fifth-seeded Cathedral Catholic Dons in the quarterfinals.

However, the Broncos created some early separation between the teams in their semifinal matchup by taking a 3-0 lead after the first period on a pair of goals by Cook and a single by Yampolsky.

Rancho Bernardo led 5-1 through two periods but Eastlake came on strong in the final period to make a game of it. However, the shots didn’t fall for the Titans.

Eastlake narrowed the score to 5-2 on a goal by sophomore Braden Mayer with 10 seconds elapsed in the period but could not get any closer on the scoreboard despite applying pressure.

The Broncos finally got an insurance goal with 3:30 to play as Yampolsky netted his second goal of the game, assisted by Cook and Thomas.

Cook and Thomas finished the game with two goals and two assists each. Yampolsky had two goals while Tyler Bodges had two assists. Mayer led the Titans with two goals.

“Eastlake has a fantastic team – wonderful coach, great program,” Gelsomino said. “It was a real battle the entire game. Both teams left everything on the rink.”

Westview played to the final horn in both its quarterfinal and semifinal games in a determined bid to return to defend its conference championship.

Westview trailed Escondido Charter by scores of 3-1 (end of first period), 4-3 (end of second period) and 5-4 (early in the third period) before prevailing with the final three goals of the game.

Tyler Lee and Gavin Lissebeck scored goals 43 seconds apart in the game’s final five minutes to put the Wolverines over the edge. Bryce Mendoza, who staked the White Tigers (8-14) to an early 2-0 lead, finished the game with a hat trick.

The Wolverines rallied from a 3-0 deficit against Scripps Ranch to get the chance to play for another championship.

Matt Gauthier, voted the 2017-18 Metro Conference Player of the Year, pushed the Falcons to a quick 2-0 lead on goals 1:15 apart to face off the game. Fraser made it 3-0, assisted by Cody Ayers, with 3:40 to play in the opening period.

Westview then made a torrid comeback with three unanswered goals to tie the game late in the second period and matched the Falcons with four goals early in the third period.

Scripps Ranch went back in front, 5-4, on a goal by Ayers, assisted by Gauthier, but the Wolverines tied the game 5-5 with 1:12 to play as Ben Goodard scored off a pass from Lee.

Goodard’s goal sent the game into overtime at which point Lee scored his second goal of the game to win it for the Wetsivew

The teams combined for a whopping 96 shots in the game – 50 by Westview and 46 by Scripps Ranch.

Lee finished the game with two goals and two assists to lead the victorious Wolverines while Gauthier paced Scripps Ranch with three goals and one assist.

“This Westview team is like no other I’ve coached,” said Smith, who received the regular season North County League Coach of the Year award. “They never get frustrated and have the heart to come back in every opportunity they can. They believe and trust in each other. They tend to start slow and come on to finish strong.

“We played against a very fast and disciplined Scripps Ranch team. The Scripps Ranch coaching staff comes to the rink prepared and experienced. Their skaters are incredibly quick in the neutral zone. Matthew Gauthier can surely back up his title of CIF Player of the Year.”

Scripps Ranch had advanced to the semifinals after eliminating the seventh-seeded Patrick Henry Patriots 13-4 in the quarterfinals.

Gauthier led the Falcons with five goals and two assists in that game while teammate Cody Sherman contributed six points on three goals and three assists. Fraser recorded three goals and one assist as Scripps Ranch piled up a 31-17 shot advantage.

The Patriots ended the season 8-14, recording a school record for wins in the team’s second year of existence.

Clash of the Titans

Mayer finished the quarterfinal-round win over the Dons (8-12) with two goals and two assists to lead the Titans. Hamilton netted a hat trick while Killeen chipped in with one goal and two assists.

An early 3-0 lead by Eastlake proved to be the difference after Cathedral Catholic made the score 5-4 midway through the third period on a shorthanded goal by Jake Belland. Two late goals by Hamilton, including an empty-netter that took a wicked hop off the boards with 15 seconds to play, helped the Titans secure the playoff win.

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It was the second win by Eastlake over the Dons this season after previously posting a 3-2 win in a non-league encounter in mid-January.

Powell notched the game-winning goal in the earlier meeting between the teams.

Killeen paced all Mesa League scorers with 69 goals and 93 points during the regular season, followed by Hamilton with 50 goals and 78 points and Mayer with 50 goals and 77 points.

Best of the rest

Poway, which finished at the bottom of the North County League standings, skated past the ninth-seeded Hilltop Lancers 10-3 in a first-round playoff game on Feb. 21. Michael Little led Poway to the win with five goals and two assists.

Patrick Henry, which finished fifth deep in the North County League standings, captured the school’s first playoff win after topping the 10th-seeded Castle Park Trojans 9-5 in a another first-round matchup.

Matt Russell and Matt Voegel paced all scorers in the game with four goals and two assists each. Voegel led the Patriots in regular season scoring with 39 goals and 12 assists, followed by Russell with 29 goals and 14 assists.

“Last year it was a loss in the playoffs but we’ve improved this year,” PHHS coach Chuck Russell said. “We’re hoping we can pick up many more playoff wins in the future of our program.”

Other first-round winners included Escondido Charter and Cathedral Catholic.

Escondido Charter advanced to the quarterfinals with an 11-2 first-round win over the 11th-seeded Otay Ranch Mustangs (13-11). Simon Gott paced the White Tigers with three goals and two assists while Matt Lopez, Zac Miszkiewicz and Ashton Domi each scored two goals.

Cathedral Catholic eliminated the regular season South Bay League champion Chula Vista Spartans 12-0 behind four goals from Sam Lathus and a hat trick by Matt Dammeyer.

The Spartans finished the season 12-10 overall, 10-1 in league play.

Player of the Year

Gauthier, who is strictly a roller hockey player, said it has been “really fun and very challenging” playing on the Falcons the past four seasons.

“CIF is a competitive league to play in and playing for one of the top teams in the skilled North County was a great experience,” the 2017-18 Metro Conference Player of the Year said.

He said among his most memorable moments this season was being nominated for the player of the year award.

“Definitely being nominated as player of the year is a huge honor but my favorite moments this year were getting to play with all my teammates each game,” he noted. “The Westview games are memorable with the (three) overtime games we played them. That kept the team on its toes. Fortunately, we got some bounces in the season and Westview got the bounce in the playoffs.

“These overtime games are when you really have to work together as a team on both sides of the puck to get the job done and during the regular season, we were able to do that.

“Westview and Rancho Bernardo were the toughest teams we played against this year for sure. Both teams have very skilled players who like to play with an edge and both have great goaltenders. I always had a tough time trying to get past their defense pairs in those games.”

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Gauthier, who collected 82 goals and 121 points this season, attributed his success this season to the support and play of his teammates.

“My success absolutely has to do with my teammates,” he said. “Our goalie kept us in every game and my linemates knew how to play an effective game. Its nice to chip in and produce some points for the team but without all the assists and hard work of my teammates it would have been a different story.”

Asked if he had any advice for upcoming players to follow in his footsteps, Gauthier, who also earned the North County League Player of the Year award, noted several aspects to cover.

“I would say practice often, individual skills, especially skating and speed,” he said. “Also important is practice with your teammates, and have fun with them on and off the rink. That’s what builds good team chemistry, which is absolutely the key to team success.”

The 2017-18 CIF-Metro Conference all-conference first team featured Scripps Ranch’s Gauthier and Eastlake’s Hamilton at forward, Westview’s Laurent Lee and Southwest’s Kayleigh Andrew at defense and RB’s Ogan at goaltender.

Second-team all-conference selections included RB’s Cook and Patrick Henry’s Russell at forward, RB’s Pang and Cathedral’s Belland at defense and Cathedral’s Patrick Henson at goaltender.

Chula Vista goaltender Giovanni Cimmino received the South Bay League Player of the Year award while Spartan head coach Caroline Talavera received the CIF-Metro Conference Coach of the Year award.

Kiwanis Cup Champions Honor Roll
2001: Bonita Vista Barons
2002: Bonita Vista Barons
2003: La Jolla Country Day Torres
2004: Scripps Ranch Falcons
2005: Scripps Ranch Falcons
2006: Westview Wolverines
2007: Rancho Bernardo Broncos
2008: Rancho Bernardo Broncos
2009: Westview Wolverines
2010: Westview Wolverines
2011: Westview Wolverines
2012: Poway Titans
2013: West Hills Wolf Pack
2014: Rancho Bernardo Broncos
2015: Rancho Bernardo Broncos
2016: Westview Wolverines
2017: Westview Wolverines
2018: Rancho Bernardo Broncos

Photos/Phillip Brents
Additional photos/Facebook

— Phillip Brents

(March 18, 2018)