Cougars writing their own Hollywood script in LAKHSHL
There’s something special brewing in the suburbs just north of Los Angeles, and in the city of Burbank, where the television and film industries fuel the local economy, one of the top teams in the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League is hoping to write its own script with a Hollywood ending.
The Burbank Cougars are experiencing their best season since the league first came into existence in 2016. With the postseason looming, they’re looking to keep the momentum rolling and challenge for their first league championship.
Through mid-February, the Cougars owned a 13-1-0 record and sat comfortably in first place with a five-point lead over the Kern County Knights and the Santa Barbara Royals. They had beaten the Knights 5-2 in the first half of a home-and-home tilt Feb. 9, with their regular-season finale scheduled against the Knights on Feb. 22.
“We’re just looking to get into the playoffs right now and if that happens, the teams that we’ll need to play are really tough,” said Cougars co-head coach Dave Holiday, who leads the team with Brian Cooke. “Santa Barbara is a very good team, and the Knights are really strong. The Newbury Park Panthers also have a lot of skill and score a ton of goals, so we’ll have to be able to shut them down.
“Every year, we seem to get a little bit better and this year we’re firing on all cylinders. Everybody is doing everything they need to do to help us squeak out games.
“I think this is our season.”
The Cougars’ roster includes Seth Biniamini, Elliot Burg, William Clarke, Aidan Ip, Eamon Julian, Arman Khachatryan, Kevin Keinlen, Dean Kossoff, Jake Kovinsky, Evan Lerman, Michael Masri, Jackson Moore, Carter Sherrit, Nikita Shibkov, Tristan Sodkomkum, Piya Tedsana, Chance Thomasy, Ethan Vernik, Jack Weinberger, Brian Wong and Bogdan Yankowski.
Burg leads the squad with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists), while Julian and Vernik were tied for the team lead with 11 goals each. Masri and Kovinsky had shared time in net, and the two goalies had combined to allow just 29 goals in 14 games.
“We’re the type of team that has no superstars but gets contributions from every single guy on the roster,” Holiday said. “Everyone is pulling on the same side of the rope. Everyone works really hard and if certain guys aren’t having a great game, other kids step up and carry us.
“The makeup of this team is really amazing.”
The Cougars have just six seniors on their roster, but all have been with the program since their freshman seasons, and the continuity has clearly paid dividends.
“That has definitely helped,” Holiday said. “We have a lot of skilled players, but we also have a lot of grit and sandpaper that helps us grind out some games. We don’t score a lot of goals, but we also don’t give up a lot of goals. We typically play a good, sound defensive game, and that really starts with our two goaltenders.
“We have six solid defensemen who really know what they’re doing and play well together, and we have some incredibly skilled and tough forwards.”
Holiday gave plenty of credit for the Cougars’ success to his assistant coaches as well as junior varsity coach Trevor Tracy and Bobby Hannah for preparing his players so well.
“Both of those guys have done a terrific job of grooming these players and getting them ready to compete at the varsity level,” Holiday said. “I also want to thank Brian Cooke, who has done a great job, as well as our managers Michelle Thomasy and Stewart Sherrit.”
— Greg Ball
(Feb. 18, 2020)