Pacific Ridge Hockey Club: New season, new goals, new challenges
The Pacific Ridge Hockey Club went into the 2022-23 season with many changes.
First, their longtime head coach Juan Trevino moved out to Nashville, opening the door for assistant coach Ben Upham to step in and take over the reins. Upham has been with the program for several years, and the club will see little change in their competitiveness.
Next, the team has gotten young – very young. Last year’s team was already light with only three seniors graduating, and this year will once again be light on the seasoned side with only three seniors hitting the ice. However, what the club lost in statesmen, they more than made up for it in additions of skilled younger players like Torrey Man and Nate Skawinski, and returning juniors David Han, Hayden Labovitch, and goalie Spencer Lyon.
The club has done well for the first half of the ADHSHL season, attaining a record of 5-3-0, with two of those loses by a one-goal differentiation. What’s more exciting is the PRHC was able to field two teams once again, as COVID kept them from having enough players for the 2021-22 season. The program’s health was further enhanced by being able to move the second team from JV status to D3/lower-level varsity status. Raising the competition level for those young freshmen and sophomore players is exciting for them and the program; many of them will be ready for the D1 Varsity next season. Currently, the D3 team has a record of 3-3-0.
The future looks solid.
The Firebirds will be playing once again in the NAPHL, participating in the 18U Show Division American Conference, with games being played in Dallas, Minnesota, and Michigan.
The first of these three contests was in Dallas (Nov. 11-13) where the Firebirds went a respectable 2-2. With two wins on the first day, 5-0 against New Mexico and 5-2 against Monument Academy, things were looking good, but Saturday the level of competition stepped up, and PRHC faced off once again against Denver East, and lost a tight game 3-0. Now, the score does not really show the actual even level of competition, as the first goal was a little suspect with a Denver player charging through Lyon in net, and the third goal was an empty-netter.
Bottom line, Denver is a tough team, and the boys need to put in a little more effort. During the Monument Academy game, Andy Kim had a big hit, which in the end kept him from participating any further, and from the beginning, a flu bug was going through the team. They lost Han for the third and fourth games. The fourth game was against the McKinney North Stars. While the boys came out holding their own, in the end with limited players and with half the squad suffering from the flu, they fell to a solid Dallas team, 6 -1.
So, with that, the first of three NAPHL trips was complete. The boys now know what to expect in Minnesota. Let’s hope they can compete without being sick.
With as much excitement and positive momentum this year, not all the news is good. The program is focusing and supporting one its most recent alumni, Patrick O’Donnell, with the challenge of a lifetime.
O’Donnell, the No. 1 goalie for the 2018-19, and 2019-20 seasons, and winner of the ADHSHL Schuman Cup in 2019-20, was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year. He had moved on and had played a season with the Utah Utes in the ACHA Division II league, but prior to returning to school this fall, he fell ill. O’Donnell has since battled through brain surgery and chemo and radiation treatment and is currently recovering and continues the fight.
With November being Hockey Fights Cancer month, PRHC wanted to support the American Cancer Society and do a fundraiser in his name. On Nov. 5, the Firebirds played the Damien Spartans at Carlsbad Icetown. While the D3 Varsity team went down 4-1 to the Spartans’ lower-level team, the D1 team pulled through with a 2-1 win in a tight game.
But the real winner was the throngs of folks who came out to cheer on the club, donate to the bake sale, and see the man himself, Patrick. The donation and the generosity of the community was huge, and as of this writing, this event had raised nearly $4000 for the American Cancer Society. It was good to see O’Donnell at the big game which filled the building (don’t tell the fire marshal).
For the month of November in honor of Patrick, the goalies for both teams will be sporting lavender No. 31 jerseys (Patrick’s original number with PRHC).
If you’re interested in PRHC hockey, send an email to PRHC@pacificridge.org or check the team out on Facebook and Instagram. The program continues to thrive. PRHC is excited to be growing and building momentum.
Until next time, GO FIREBIRDS!
— Pacific Ridge Hockey Club Staff
(November 29, 2022)