California Rubber

California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Hockey

Jr. Reign announces coaching staff for upcoming 2021-22 youth hockey season


The Jr. Reign is planning ahead for the 2021-22 season and has announced its teams and coaches for teams ranging from 6U to 18U B, BB, A, AA and AAA levels.

18U AAA – Tomas Kapusta, David Vychodil
18U AA – David Vychodil
16U AAA – Tomas Kapusta, David Vychodil
16U AA – David Vychodil
15O AAA – Tomas Kapusta, David Vychodil
14U AAA – Tomas Kapusta, Josh Newton
14U AA – Josh Newton
14UA – Tony Steege
12U AA – Josh Newton
8U A – Paul Esdale

Riverside Location Teams
8U B – Oscar Huezo
8U Gretzky – Oscar Huezo
10U BB – Josh Newton, Gabe Miklovich
10U B – Gabe Miklovich
12U A – Paul Esdale
12U B – Gabe Miklovich

Carlsbad Location Teams
8U B – Paul Esdale
8U Gretzky – TBA
10U BB – Paul Esdale, Darren Berezowski
10U B – TBA
12U A/B- Tony Steege

Director of Player Development – Darren Berezowski
Head Goaltending Coach – Noble Tucker
Assistant Goaltending Coach – Justin Lakin
Player Advancement Advisor- Wayne Kosior
Player Advancement Coordinator – Domenick Dicicco
Skating Coach – Darren Berezowski

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to offer players and families elite level programming from 8U to 18U levels with an athlete centered development approach, professional and experienced coaching, and a family friendly experience to the Southern California hockey community,” said Paul Esdale, Jr. Reign chief of hockey operations.

All Jr. Reign A, B, and AA teams will participate in SCAHA (Southern California Amateur Hockey Association) local league play. The AA (Tier II), and AAA (Tier I) teams will participate in the CAHA (California Amateur Hockey Association) schedule as well as the NAPHL (North American Prospects Hockey League).

“We are excited to offer Jr. Reign tier players the opportunity to compete as part of the NAPHL and expose players to elite hockey against teams from all over North America as well as experience educational and scouting opportunities that come with being a part of the NAPHL league,” said Tomas Kapusta, Jr. Reign director of high performance.

“We are thrilled to offer our players a full pathway of development from 8U through the highest levels of youth hockey and help players grow towards their highest ambitions,” added Jr. Reign director of player development Darren Berezowski.

As the director of high performance, Kapusta will be overseeing all AA- and AAA-level teams and focusing on being head coach for the 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U AAA teams.

“I can’t even imagine doing anything else in my life than being involved in teaching and coaching young hockey players,” Kapusta said. “Growing up playing hockey since I started to walk and knowing this sport inside out, playing hockey professionally for 20 years provides me with the foundation to give back what I have received. I understand how much I was gifted, and I am thrilled to have a chance to share my passion for hockey with players of all ages.”

Kapusta was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round (104th overall) in the 1985 NHL Draft and was part of the Czech National Team at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

His career was filled with numerous achievements including serving as captain of the Long Beach Ice Dogs (WCHL) from 2000-02, playing for the second-place team in Czech Republic Extra League in 1998-99, winning a bronze medal at the 1993 World Championships, leading scorer in the Elite Finnish League for the 1992-93 season, the award for perseverance and sportsmanship with the AHL’s Cape Breton Oilers in 1992-93, and silver medals at the 1985 and 1987 World Junior Championships.

Kapusta graduated with a BA in Social Science at CSULA and received a certified teaching credential at CSULB. Before he accepted his position with the Jr. Reign, Kapusta served as a Jr. Kings head coach and hockey director for the Toyota Sports Center. He also worked with the Jr. Kings organization and developed teams in the in-house program all the way to the Bantam level.

The organization’s goalie coaches for the 2021-22 season, Tucker and Lakin, are both Southern California natives.

Tucker grew up playing Tier I and Tier II hockey before joining the University of Delaware ACHA Division I team from 2012-15. Before playing at the collegiate level, he played junior hockey in the WSHL and NPHL. One of Tucker’s biggest accomplishments while playing was being invited to skate at the Los Angeles Kings main training camp in 2010.

Tucker has also coached for NCAA D-III Neumann University, Philadelphia Little Flyers and San Diego Sabers junior teams Haverford Hawks and Chester County Cougars youth teams and now for the Jr. Reign.

Lakin played for the Jr. Reign, including two years of 18U AAA hockey, which included defeating the Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ 18U AAA team to advance to the Pacific District finals. He also played for the Sabers during the 2020-21 season.

Newton, who will bring great skill and experience to the Jr. Reign players and families, will focus primarily on head coaching 12U and 14U AA teams as well as assisting with the AAA teams.

Born in Leduc, Alberta, Canada, and raised in Southern California from the time he was nine years old, Newton said his love for hockey started in Canada but was nurtured in California.

“Some like to think I followed my favorite hockey player to LA,” said Newton. “I played roller hockey until I was 16 and then made the transition to ice hockey. I only played three years of youth ice hockey before aging out.”

Newton, a level 5 USA Hockey-certified coach, played Junior B for the IJHL’s Salem Ice Dogs and also for the Grand Forks Border Bruins in the KIJHL.

“After my playing career, I started coaching at the age of 22,” Newton said. “I remember saying I’d never coach hockey. Now almost 20 years later, I can’t see myself doing anything else.

“In 2006 I played a few games for the San Diego Gulls in the ECHL. My love for the game is what fuels me to continue to give back to the game that has given so much to my life. I do my best to not just help young players become better at hockey but help mold them into becoming young men and women.”

As head skills and strength conditioning coach with the club, Vychodil will focus primarily on head coaching 16U and 18U AA showcase teams as well as assist with 15O, 16U and 18U AAA teams.

“Since Day 1, I have loved coaching and I don’t treat it as a job,” Vychodil said. “It is more of a mission and destiny. I am very fortunate that I am doing what I love, and I can do it every day. Still as an active player in 2013, I transitioned into coaching youth hockey in Europe. Many of my players moved to Tier I Elite programs in the United States. The last eight years, I have coached and managed all categories and levels of youth, as well as high school and junior hockey. As a player, I have over 700 games and 17 years of professional hockey experience, playing across Europe, United States and Russia.

“I grew up in Ostrava, Czech Republic playing AAA youth, elite junior and senior hockey for my hometown team HC Vitkovice. I graduated from the Sportovni Gymnazium Dany A Emila Zatopkovych Ostrava, a preparatory school for elite athletes in 1998. My major subject was Theory of Sports training and Biology. I continued to study at Charles University in Prague, but I interrupted my study to fulfill my military duties for the Czech Army. During that year, I played for the Czech U20 National Team and also for elite army team HC Dukla Jihlava that won the league title that year.”

In 1999-2000, Vychodil moved to the United States to play junior hockey with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. In the spring of 2001, he received an offer from Iowa State University (ACHA Division I), but he chose to join the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and played minor league hockey for several years.

Esdale’s philosophy on coaching is one that is key for the Jr. Reign players and fellow coaches.

“We strive to be great role models for today’s youth and relish the opportunity to guide beginners to experienced players in their journey through the game of hockey while using sport as a vehicle to teach life lessons,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to give the players a positive experience, increase their passion for the game, facilitate their dreams and lead them to be positive contributors in sport, family, community, school and beyond.”

Born and raised in Edmonton, Esdale was a standout hockey and tennis player, even after he was cut from his Midget hockey team and deemed ”too small to play at a high level.”

Through years of hard work and determination, Esdale reached a Top 10 ranking in Canada for the Under 18 age group in tennis while playing four years in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, earning a commitment to NCAA Division I Brown University.

An All-Ivy League and All-ECAC defenseman at Brown, Esdale graduated with a Business Economics degree in 2003. Following his collegiate career, he played six years of professional puck in the AHL, CHL, ECHL and IHL, and also spent time in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Following his playing career, Esdale served as head coach and general manager of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the British Columbia Hockey League for three seasons, sending 25 players to NCAA Division I, Division III and Canadian University to pursue their hockey and education careers.

Berezowski is a youth hockey coach with over 25 years of experience. He grew up in Calgary and played elite-level youth, junior and college hockey.

Berezowski started coaching hockey in 2008 with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks and joined the Jr. Reign in 2011. He has also coached at Friends Christian School in both the Ducks SCORE Street Hockey and the Ducks i3 Roller Hockey League, in which he has led teams to a combined total of 11 championships.

He believes his hockey experiences translates well in developing the youth hockey player to reach their full potential.

In addition, Berezowski’s son Matthew played through all the AAA levels with the Jr. Reign and after his 18U year, went to the NAHL where he played the past two years with the Chippewa Steel.

— Matt Mackinder

(June 4, 2021)

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