Capistrano passing chemistry test
It takes time to figure out all the pieces to the puzzle.
At least that’s what we were always led to believe.
So when the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL) pooled players from all over the Capistrano Unified School District to architect a team, it’d have been reasonable to expect some growing pains for a roster that was patched together from a wider community.
Therein lies the fascination with the non-pure high school hockey team; clubs are fielded from a group of schools, leaving team chemistry questionable as the season arrives.
And yet some, like Capistrano United, have defied the odds. The Coyotes came together in their inaugural season to capture the ADHSHL Division II championship in 2014.
Success has accompanied the Coyotes into the New Year, as they started their second season with a flawless 12-0 record.
The players believe that playing for Capistrano United provides a similar experience to the one offered by pure division teams, where teams are recruited to represent a single school.
The Coyotes’ roster has an unusual amount of familiarity with one another despite the fact that the players come from five separate schools.
“I feel like (the cohesiveness) hasn’t changed that much,” Coyotes forward Greg Lee said of playing on a non-pure team. “Most of us have played hockey with each other at another time, and the majority with Orange County Hockey Club. I’ve been playing there ever since I started Squirts.”
The addition of Jean Labbe as coach has supported the regional closeness the Coyotes have been able to achieve. Labbe also coaches at OC Hockey Club, where he heads up the Bantam AA and Midget 16AA teams.
Labbe was quick to point out that apart from their connection to OC Hockey Club, more than half of the players in his program come from Aliso Niguel and Dana Hills High Schools.
The first-year Coyotes coach says that coaching at the high school level is a test because the players have a variety of skill levels (ranging from 18U AAA to 16U AA).
He appreciates the structure of the Capistrano United program because it’s allowed his kids to remain focused on important tasks, such as their studies.
“It’s providing the right situation for them,” Labbe said. “It’s not interfering with what they’re doing.”
Labbe derives further enjoyment from the fact that each kid gets to play a prominent role for his team. The Coyotes boast a balanced scoring attack with each goaltender sharing minutes between the pipes.
“We feel it’s important that everyone has a chance to contribute. We want to make sure everyone has a chance to help the team in the playoffs,” Labbe said. “What I really enjoy about coaching at this hockey program is that we get all the kids involved.”
The growth of high school hockey has allowed for greater participation in the game. Still, further steps can be taken to increase the appeal of the sport to California’s youth segment.
Coyotes captain Cameron McCartin is anxious to see the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) include hockey in its ring of sanctioned sports.
“I think the next step would be for hockey to become a CIF sport so kids could get P.E. credit for it,” he said.
Whether or not you need a geography lesson to find the source of Capistrano United’s talent, the Coyotes want to make sure teams know they’re a force to be reckoned with when they take the ice.
– Andrew Turner