Vikings on right path as second ‘pure’ team in LAKHSHL
It has been a long and difficult road for the Valencia Vikings in their first year as part of the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League, but when they look at the bigger picture, the bumps and bruises are seeming to be worthwhile.
The Vikings are just the second “pure” team among the 10 varsity squads in the two-year-old league, joining the West Ranch Wildcats. All the Vikings’ players attend Valencia High School, which is located directly across the street from their home rink at Ice Station Valencia.
While their roster is smaller than that of other teams and wins have been hard to come by, simply getting on the ice and getting the program started has been an accomplishment this winter. Players and coaches hope that they’re setting the foundation for a program that will be successful in future seasons.
“It’s been a great experience for the kids,” said head coach Andrew Yi, who grew up playing at Ice Station Valencia, played roller hockey at UC Irvine and returned to coach the Vikings and a Squirt B team with the Valencia Flyers travel program. “This has been a big jump up because most of our guys were recreational or in-house players, and this has been a learning experience for all of us.
“Even though the results don’t show in the standings, the kids have made tremendous progress. It has been an incredible transformation, and I’m really proud of the team.”
The team’s roster includes forwards Tim Achimasi, Clay Byers, Hunter Ishimoto, Kole Jensen, Luke Rowe, Trevor Sunday and Tyler Waldman; defensemen Daniel Hong, Jacob Mercier, Sophia Pitsch, Nick Ramirez, Alec Tiengerd and Corbin Zada; and goalies Brandon Iles and Nathan Schwimmer.
As of the end of the 2016 calendar year, the Vikings hadn’t won a game yet, but had five more contests on their schedule through Feb. 24, and Yi said they have been improving every day.
“I think right now. we have developed most of the pieces and we’re just missing one key piece,” Yi said, noting that the team’s roster features a lot of sophomores, which allows the core of the squad two more seasons to develop. “It has been awesome for these kids to represent their school, and I think that’s something that could entice more players to join us next year. It’s a great school for hockey.”
The Ice Station had offered a high-school league in the past, but it was relatively unstructured and not nearly as competitive as the Kings league.
“I have really liked it,” Byers, a senior, said. “It’s awesome playing against all these great teams in the Kings league. “With our team being pretty young, guys are going to get a lot of time playing together, and I think they’re just going to get better and better. There’s only one way to go, and it’s up.”
Mercier, a sophomore, said the experience of playing for the Vikings has been a great one, and he’s looking forward to two more seasons.
“I’m having a lot of fun with the guys, and this is the first year we get to represent our school,” he said.
The team’s managers are Anthony Achimasi, Kelly Iles and Lisa Mercier. Iles said that while there have been plenty of challenges, she has already seen lots of progress and had enjoyed being part of the first season of a program that she hopes gets better each season.
“It has been a wonderful learning experience,” Iles said. “We’re trying to build the team from the ground up. We’ve made significant strides every single week. The parents are extremely supportive, since so many of them have always wanted to see hockey offered at the high school.”
— Greg Ball