Californians capture ’16-17 championships in AHL, USHL, NAHL, Switzerland
If you want to win a sports championship, having players who have accomplished it before can be an important ingredient.
Just ask the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, SC Bern of the Swiss A-League and the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League.
All of those teams had California players play key roles in their championship runs. An alternate formula is collecting as many Californians as possible en route to winning a title, as the Lone Star Brahmas did in the North American Hockey League.
The Griffins won their second Calder Cup in five seasons and got heavy contributions from forwards Matt Ford and Mitch Callahan, both veteran trophy lifters.
Ford won a USA Hockey Youth Nationals title with Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2003 and an NCAA title at Wisconsin in 2006. Callahan helped the Griffins win in 2013, four years after winning the Western Hockey League’s Ed Chynoweth Cup with the Kelowna Rockets.
“This one probably to me was the most special,” said the West Hills native. “In those other circumstances, including college, we had special teams, but it’s four wins. This was a two-month grind that’s just as much mental as physical.
“In the American Hockey League, I’ve been part of some really good teams that I thought had a chance, but there’s so many factors that go into having that opportunity in terms of health, what’s going on with your NHL team, synergy and guys coming down from the NHL.
“(Finals opponent) Syracuse was the best hockey team I’ve ever played against. A lot of those guys are going to get the opportunity at the next level. It was the hardest series and rightfully so because so much was on the line.”
The victory was made sweeter because Ford’s parents, John and Kasey, were able to attend along with his toddler son, Bennett, who turned one shortly after the triumph.
“What a special year – Bennett being born, my wife taking a new job and the Calder Cup – that’s my Stanley Cup,” Ford said. “That’s as good as it gets, and I took a lot of pride in what we’ve done.”
Callahan, a Whittier native, had 16 points and Ford 12 in 19 playoff games for the Griffins. Callahan, who signed a two-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers organization during free agency, had 43 points (one off his career high) during the regular season and played four games for the parent Detroit Red Wings. Ford, a Griffins alternate captain, had 35 points in 51 games.
Lake Forest native Ryan Lasch won a professional championship for the second year in a row, this time with SC Bern of the Swiss A-League. In 2016, he helped Frolunda win the Swedish Hockey League title and led the league in scoring. He’s made a habit of deep playoff runs in Europe, nearly winning it all in Finland in 2012.
Newport Beach native Brannon McManus, a member of the LA Selects’ Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament champions in 2012, added a Junior A title to his resume, helping the Chicago Steel capture its first USHL title. The Minnesota commit had 11 points in 17 Clark Cup playoff games, including six goals. His 38 regular-season points were fourth on the team. He tallied 27 of those in 36 games after he was traded from Omaha.
Lone Star (pictured at top) won the Robertson Cup in mid-May thanks in large part to contributions from the California quartet of forwards Carson Kelley (Portola Valley), David Marabella (Clovis) and Hunter Stanley (Camarillo) and defenseman Alex Stoley (Manteca).
Kelley, a former San Jose Jr. Shark, led the team in regular-season scoring with 50 points, adding seven more in 11 playoff games, while Stanley, an ex-California Titan, chipped in 40 points and had five game-winners among his 17 goals in the regular season. Marabella and Stoley, a former Golden State Elite Eagle, joined Kelley in making commitments to NCAA Division III schools this season.
— Chris Bayee