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Santa Barbara captures LAKHSHL championship once again

 

LAKHSHL 2016-17 champion Santa Barbara Royals

For the second time in the league’s two-year history, the Santa Barbara Royals are champions of the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League.

The Royals, coached by former Kings star Steve Heinze, toppled the Kern County Knights 6-2 on the afternoon of March 4 at STAPLES Center, before the NHL’s Kings took on the Vancouver Canucks later that night.

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“First, second, third or tenth – it doesn’t matter – any championship is special in its own way,” Heinze said. “These players have started something great here in our community, and it is wonderful to see the excitement of our younger hockey players (most of them brand new to the sport) aspiring to be Royals. Many of our players had stated that they would not have been playing hockey if it were not for the Royals and our new rink, Ice in Paradise. Winning back-to-back championships has given us a renewed and deeper love of hockey.”

The Santa Barbara roster includes forwards Cameron Baron, Collin Del Bonis, Harrison Del Bonis, Ben Essig, Chris Ewasiuk, Ben Fellows, Tyler Martindale, Jared McMullen and Nicholas Poire; defensemen Jack Johnson, Ayden Klock, Ryan McMullen, Shea Rousseau, Emmett Rupert and Daniel Solomon; and goalies Will Hahn and Matthew Park.

Heinze’s assistant coaches are John Ewasiuk and Brian Scullion.

In the championship game, the Royals jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back.

Johnson and Jared McMullen scored two goals apiece, with one each coming from Ewasiuk and Poire. Johnson totaled four assists, while Ewasiuk, Jared McMullen and Ryan McMullen each added two helpers. Park and Hahn split time in goal, with Park registering 10 saves and Hahn four.

“This year’s team was not much different than last year’s – our captains and our core group of players and leaders stayed the same,” Heinze said. “This is a great group of young adults that got along and looked out for each other on and off the ice.

“Any championship team does at least one thing – works hard. Defense is hard work, mixed with good goaltending, and this team had an average of less than one goal a game against. That hard work coupled with skill also had the team scoring almost seven goals a game on average.”

The league handed out a number of year-end awards before the championship game. The Royals, who were the league’s best team from the beginning of the season to the end, naturally cleaned up. The Rob Blake Defenseman of The Year Award went to Johnson, a junior from San Marcos High School who led the league’s defensemen with 59 points (39 goals and 20 assists) in 16 games.

The Rogie Vachon Goalie of The Year Award went to Hahn, a senior from Santa Barbara High School. Hahn went 9-0, logging 456 minutes while allowing just seven goals while facing 142 shots, for a remarkable .951 save percentage.

Heinze won the Coach of the Year Award, taking home that distinction for the second straight year after leading the Royals to a 16-1 record and a second consecutive league championship.

The West Ranch Wildcats took home two awards, both given to the same player. Tristan Warr, a sophomore at West Ranch who totaled 63 points (34 goals and 29 assists) in 17 games this season, earned the Top Scorer Award as well as the Wayne Gretzky MVP Award.

The Luc Robitaille Freshmen of The Year Award went to Brandon Iles of the Valencia Vikings. A goalie from Valencia High School, he played 15 games, logging 428 minutes and facing 332 shots on goal. The Dave Taylor Leadership Award went to Felix Goldwasser of the Burbank Cougars. A junior at John Marshall High School, he posted a team-leading 18 points (13 goals and five assists) in 15 games played.

— Greg Ball