Outlaws double dip, capture both LAKHSHL, CAHA titles
When the 2017-18 season began, East County Outlaws head coach Scott Jones identified one key goal for his team – get to the STAPLES Center.
There was no further explanation needed, as the players all knew that the championship game for the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League would be played in March on the Kings’ home ice, and they were all on board with making that their target.
The Outlaws achieved and even exceeded that goal, as on March 17, they were crowned the league’s champions for the first time. As icing on the cake, they also won the inaugural California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) high school Division 2B title on March 25.
“Winning is always wonderful, and it was really special this year because we had such a great group of kids and parents,” Jones said. “It really was a lot of fun.
“We had nine seniors on this team, and there were a number of kids who had played together coming up through local youth hockey programs for something like 10 years. They really knew each other, and it was a great opportunity for them to create some incredible memories.”
The Outlaws’ roster includes forwards Dylan Freed, Will Juengermann, Jake Shapiro, Butch Ewart, Zach Kantz, Spencer Cait, Mike Mariano, Misha Derdiger, Nate Garcia and Jacob Landsberg; defensemen Riley Stern, Ben Hyde, Anthony Johnson, McKenna Cooper, J.J. Juengermann, Sean Schneiderbauer, Peter Lotosky and Jason Piller; and goalies E.J. Kaufman and Aaron Garcia. Jones was assisted on the coaching staff by Jordan Pugmire and Mike Mariano.
Playing out of the Simi Valley Iceoplex and drawing from high schools from the San Fernando Valley to Oxnard, the Outlaws went 15-3 this season. That record included a 3-1 victory over the two-time defending L.A. Kings High School Hockey League champion Santa Barbara Royals in the March 11 semifinals and their 1-0 victory over the Kern County Knights in the championship game six days later. Garcia scored the lone goal in the championship game, on an assist from Cait.
In the CAHA tournament at Valencia Ice Station, they beat the Panthers 9-2 on March 23 and the next day skated to a 4-3 victory over the Knights and a 7-2 win over the Lancers. Their 5-2 triumph over the Jets got them into the championship game, where they notched a 3-2 overtime victory in an intense matchup with the San Francisco Sabercats. Cait notched the game-winner against the Sabercats.
Pugmire was in his first season coaching the Outlaws this year, but had worked with many of the kids previously with the Ventura Mariners youth program. He said the players exceeded even his lofty expectations.
“Coming in, I knew most of the kids and knew it was going to be a special group,” Pugmire said. “It was awesome to be a part of it. I wanted these kids to win, because I know they have paid their dues and they worked so hard this season. I couldn’t be more proud of their two championships.”
Jones said a key moment for the Outlaws this season came during a tournament they played over Presidents’ Day weekend. They beat a top team from Canada early in the tournament, and in a rematch in the championship game, lost by a 6-1 score. It made them realize that they couldn’t let up for any opponent, even if they had beaten them before, Jones said.
“They learned from that, and from then on, they were bound and determined and had that fire in their bellies,” Jones said.
— Greg Ball
(May 1, 2018)