CIF-Metro Conference rolls out 16th season
The CIF-Metro Conference rolled out its 16th season on Nov. 30 with four games at Escondido Sports Center.
The defending Kiwanis Cup champion Rancho Bernardo Broncos opened defense of their CIF championship by defeating the St. Augustine Saints, 17-0, in one of the non-league contests.
Broncos second-year coach Joe Gelsomino said his team is looking to build on last season’s success with new players in the system.
“We have a neat group of experienced junior and senior players and a new core of five freshmen,” the RBHS coach said. “We’re looking to continue the tradition of high-level hockey here at RB.”
Top returners include senior Brendan O’Rourke, juniors Bailey Ridout and Ryan Wilson and sophomore Brad Larson.
Wilson earned honors last season as an All-North County League selection, while Ridout was an all-conference pick.
Wilson racked up eight goals and three assists in RB’s season-opening win.
The Broncos’ incoming group includes sophomore goaltender Jakob Ogan and freshmen Alex Pang, Miles Cook, Keigo Hachisuka and Ike Frankel, along with seniors Chris White and Matt Holmes.
Gelsomino said keys to the team’s ongoing success will be how rapidly the new players adjust to the varsity level.
Ogan made 13 saves to notch the shutout win, while Ridout and Cook each contributed two goals and three assists. Holmes chipped in a goal and two assists and O’Rourke chipped in with a pair of goals.
Escondido Charter joins the CIF-Metro Conference after winning last year’s San Diego District Hockey varsity club championship. Conference membership remains at 17 varsity teams, however, after La Jolla Country Day announced it’ll not be fielding a team this season.
Escondido Charter expects to be an immediate championship contender in its new surroundings. The White Tigers won their first-ever CIF game by defeating the West Hills Wolf Pack, 6-4, on opening night.
Rancho Bernardo defeated the Cathedral Catholic Dons, 3-1, in last season’s Kiwanis Cup championship game. Both teams are highly regarded again this season. Cathedral Catholic topped the preseason rankings, followed by Rancho Bernardo.
The Scripps Ranch Falcons finished third overall in last season’s 12-team championship playoff tournament after edging Poway, 7-6, in the Kiwanis Cup third-place game. The Falcons enter this season ranked third in the preseason poll.
Division alignments for the 2015-16 season feature Escondido Charter, Poway, Rancho Bernardo and Westview in the North County League; Cathedral Catholic, Scripps Ranch, St. Augustine and West Hills in the Central League; Bonita Vista, Eastlake, Hilltop and Otay Ranch in the Mesa League; and Castle Park, Chula Vista, Mar Vista, Southwest and Sweetwater in the South Bay League.
Scripps Ranch moves over from the North County League to take La Jolla Country Day’s place in the Central League.
Castle Park, braced by a senior-laden roster this season, is looking to repeat as South Bay League champions, while both Otay Ranch and Hilltop hope to unseat rival Eastlake as this season’s Mesa League champion.
Otay Ranch had a rousing start to its season after defeating Castle Park, 15-2, in a non-league game earlier this month at the Sweetwater Union High School District rink at Castle Park High School.
Sean Devaney, a freshman with ice hockey experience playing in the San Diego Jr. Gulls’ program, made a dramatic debut with five goals in his first varsity game, while Otay Ranch team captain Ricky Portilla tallied six points on two goals and four assists.
Under the guidance of 10th-year head coach Greg Friedman, the Falcons got off to a promising start with an 11-8 non-league win over Westview and a 6-5 setback to Cathedral Catholic.
Scripps Ranch is led this season by senior goaltender Casey Wu, junior Jesse Lycan and sophomores Matthew Gauthier and Stewart Pond. Lycan (Anaheim Jr. Ducks 16U AAA) and Pond (San Diego Jr. Gulls 16U AAA) both bring ice hockey experience to the floor, while Gauthier was the top-scoring freshman in the conference last season.
Freshman Cody Sherman, who plays ice for the Jr. Ducks’ 14U AAA squad, has had an immediate impact on the team.
Lycan led the Falcons with five goals and three assists, while Sherman chipped in with four goals, including the game-winner, in the team’s season-opener.
According to Friedman, the challenge this season will be the same as last: balancing a talented roster with the travel ice players who may not make all the games until playoffs.
Wu, Lycan, Gauthier, Pond and Sherman give Scripps Ranch one of the conference’s top group of starters. Defensemen London Peters (junior) and Leo Gaffrey (sophomore), along with sophomore forward Wesley Rim, should see plenty of playing time.
With such a talented roster, anything short of a CIF finals appearance might be considered a disappointing season for the Falcons.
– Phillip Brents