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Santa Margarita comes up big at JSerra Invite

 

SM Hockey Trophy 2

Things aren’t always going to be perfect.

Throughout the season, there are a number of moments that’ll test the strength and will of a hockey club.

Off to just a 1-4 start against teams in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League Division I group this year, the Santa Margarita Eagles were looking for a source of inspiration.

They dug deep at this year’s JSerra Thanksgiving Invitational, putting together a 3-1-1 record in the five games to win the title.

The Eagles had their fair share of trying moments during the tournament, which was showcased at various Southern California rinks. Four of the five games were decided by one goal or less, with the championship game coming down to a shootout.

Santa Margarita coach Craig Johnson said his team put forth the passion and effort necessary to come out victorious at an event as competitive as the JSerra Invite.

“For us to be successful, we have to play with intensity,” he said, adding that the team is still searching for consistency. “We have to play with passion each and every game. When we do that, we’re a good team and that rang true throughout the weekend.

“The championship game was just a great win for the team. The kids pulled together, and they competed every minute.”

That they did, especially when things got late in the final against Vincent Massey.

Team captain Cavin McClare had led the Eagles in scoring throughout the tournament, but with one second left in regulation, he was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for making contact to the head of an opponent.

The Eagles had to bail their captain out.

Center Jonathan Skule was joined by the defensive pairings of Jett Shibata and Thomas Hoey and Blake Howard and Ty Gardner as the Eagles killed off a full five minutes of 4-on-3 shorthanded hockey in overtime.

“It was pretty bad,” McClare said of the late penalty. “I thought I let my team down a lot, but the boys rallied together. Our goalie (Jack Harwick) was a wall back there. I couldn’t be more proud of the team.

“It was a huge victory for us, and Jack was awesome in net.”

Hardwick (25 saves) would continue his brilliance in the shootout, stopping shots from Brett Bailey and Nolan Libbrecht. The Eagles, who won the finale, 4-3, tabbed a pair of defensemen to take their shots; Gardner beat the goaltender with a deke to the backhand, and Greg Bennett potted the game-winner with a low shot to the glove side.

Santa Margarita also had victories over Swiss International Sports and Education Center and Shawnigan Lake, from British Columbia.

Goaltender Dylan Gluck drew the start in net for the semifinal against Shawnigan. He made 17 saves in a 2-1 victory – a game Johnson called the team’s most complete performance of the tournament.

Hardwick and Gluck are both returning goaltenders. The two alternated starts throughout the tournament – a sign of the confidence the team has with either manning the crease.

“Both of them played exceptional,” Johnson said. “They gave us a chance to win every night. That’s what you ask of your goaltenders – that they compete and they battle.

“They’re not always going to make the saves, but they did give us a great chance to win every game.”

The Eagles have had to generate their scoring by committee this season, but Gluck wants to make sure the play in net is something that his teammates can count on.

“The guys knowing that Jack and I have been there before allows them to kind of rely on us,” he said. “We want to be a source of leadership and motivation throughout the game.”

Santa Margarita set out to carry its momentum into the Bellarmine Tournament in San Jose, which took place from Dec. 18-22.

– Andrew Turner