Orange Lutheran’s success continues in San Jose
Orange Lutheran has quickly become a power among California’s Division I high school programs, and its tradition of winning has made it a destination for those looking to play for a perennial contender.
Following a very successful season in which he was an Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League all-star selection for Villa Park, Zachary Pires transferred to Orange Lutheran with the hope of competing for and winning a national championship.
He’s done nothing to hurt that goal; from the moment he joined the Lancers, Pires knew that the expectations would be like none he’d ever faced before.
The junior forward was prepared to meet – and raise – those standards, and he was named one of the team’s assistant captains for the season.
“I knew the expectations here were pretty high coming in from last year’s team,” Pires said. “I knew that if I came in and did what I had to do to help the team, then I could be one of those leaders.
“That’s a role I like to take on, so it was fun for me to get the opportunity; I’m enjoying it.”
The expectations that Pires alluded to are a direct reflection of the Lancers’ recent success. Last season, Orange Lutheran won its first California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) state title in the program’s five-year history to qualify for the USA Hockey National Championships.
With Jacob Heller – the league’s leading scorer a year ago – still in the fold, the Lancers have a great chance to repeat as CAHA’s best and make a run at a national title, and Pires isn’t about to shy away from those goals.
“We want to make it to nationals and win nationals,” he said. “We don’t want to go to nationals and have a letdown and put in all that work for nothing. We have a goal in mind, and that’s what we want to achieve.”
As of mid-January, Orange Lutheran held a 28-6-1 record, outscoring its opponents by a margin of 140-65.
Lancers coach Dan Adams says the team’s success starts with junior goaltender Conner Taherian.
“He’s been our go-to guy all year,” Adams said. “He’s played in all the big games, and he’s just been outstanding. He makes a lot of great saves.”
The Lancers won this year’s Bellarmine Holiday Invitational, which was showcased recently in San Jose. Heller had four goals and five assists to lead the team in scoring, while Jacob Furry added four goals and four assists. Taherian started and won every game.
Taherian posted a .952 save percentage with two shutouts in the tournament, but wasn’t tested much until the championship game against JSerra where he made 23 saves to beat the Lions.
Taherian said it was great to prove himself in a championship tilt, especially against division rival JSerra. He credited his defense for a job well done; the Lancers goalie faced just 38 shots in four games leading up to the final.
“Our defense is really great,” Taherian said. “They’ll do anything for me; they’ll block shots, they’ll give me the best shot visible if that’s what it takes or they’ll keep their opponents wide. They always protect me.”
Pires delivered the game-winning goal in the title game.
Adams calls Taherian as a great communicator. The Lancers goalie prefers to keep opponents from cutting through the middle of the ice, and the coaching staff has devised a system that limits good scoring opportunities.
“We tell our defensemen to stay inside the faceoff dots, so that means our opponents have to stay outside,” Adams said. “If they stay outside, that means Conner has a great chance of making a save because the shots are coming from so far away.
“That’s what we did up at Bellarmine, and it was effective for us.”
– Andrew Turner