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Senior Night proves bittersweet for LAKHSHL’s East County Outlaws

 

Dylan and dad

The day of Saturday, March 2 was a bittersweet day for eight members of the East County Outlaws.

That’s because the team bid farewell to a group of players that will be graduating this spring and would soon wear the team’s blue and orange sweaters for the last time.

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Seniors honored by the Outlaws in a brief ceremony after their 4-1 victory over the Burbank Cougars included Nathan Donovan, Ryan Delichte, Dylan Freed, Aaron Garcia, Alastair Ong, Jay Pacheco, Jake Shapiro and Cole Smith.

The Panthers also took time to recognize graduating seniors from a fellow L.A. Kings High School Hockey League (LAKHSHL) squad, the Newbury Park Panthers, as the teams play at the same home rink (Iceoplex Simi Valley, where the Panthers played March 2 following the Outlaws game) and are interconnected in many other ways.

Many grew up playing together, and a handful of players from the Outlaws’ league- and state-championship winning team from a year ago played for the Panthers this season. The Panthers players honored included Grant Belter, Ryan Doane, Jacob Landesburg, Sean Laveau, Peter Lototsky, Evan Marnell, Christian Miller, Roman Murray, Jack Shea and Skye Sholty.

Senior players and their families were recognized on the ice, and each family was presented with an action photo of their son from this season.

“For many of the seniors, this is likely their last year playing competitive hockey,” said Tanya Shapiro, whose son, Jake, is a graduating senior and who serves as a team manager alongside Ann Juengermann. “We wanted to honor them at the end of the season for all the time and effort they put in. It was also to honor the parents, who over the years have put in countless miles driving, hours at the rink and early mornings to support their kids.”

Freed (pictured with his father) was the Outlaws’ lone senior who had played for the team since his freshman year, which coincided with the first season for the LAKHSHL. He served as an assistant captain this season and was among the team leaders with 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists).

He attends Simi Valley High School, where he has maintained a 4.0 grade point average. After graduation, he plans to attend Cal State Fullerton and study business and entrepreneurship, and he said the ceremony put on by the Outlaws was a nice way to tie a bow on one chapter of his life before he moves on to college.

“Senior Night was really special,” Freed said. “The Outlaws have been like a family for the last four years, especially since I was there as the team and the league first started.”

Freed said he has so many great memories of his time with the Outlaws that it would be impossible to single out one favorite.

“I got to play on a line with my brother during my freshman year, which was really awesome,” he said. “We weren’t very good that first season, but each year this team has improved a huge amount, which has been amazing to be part of. It has been great to meet new people and make new friends, knowing that those are going to be long-lasting relationships.”

Tanya Shapiro said she’ll miss watching her son Jake play, though she’ll continue to be involved as her younger son plays for the Outlaws.

“We had a great group of kids,” she said. “A lot of them had played together going back to their Mite days with the Mariners program.

“It was a really nice event to mark the end of these kids’ high school hockey careers. As a parent, it’s sad to think it’s over, although I’m hopeful that they’ll continue to play the game that they’ve loved for so long in some capacity. The other parents seemed to really enjoy the ceremony.”

Photo/Tanya Shapiro

— Greg Ball

(April 3, 2019)