Santa Margarita Catholic claims third CAHA high school state title
For the third time in just eight seasons, the Eagles of Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita can call themselves California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) state champions.
Santa Margarita captured the CAHA title on March 5 at The Rinks-Lakewood ICE, capping off another stellar season – though the Eagles still have something to play for before their season is complete.
“This one is special not just because we won, but because I have watched how close these kids have become throughout the year both on and off the ice,” Santa Margarita coach Craig Johnson said. “Every day, they showed up and worked hard. They put in their time in the weight room, and most days, they did it with a smile on their faces.
“We look forward to attending (USA Hockey Youth) Nationals later this month and having a chance to play for a national title again. I allowed the team to enjoy the victory for seven minutes because we still have work to do as we prepare.”
The national championship tournament for the high school division will be held March 30-April 3 in Cleveland, Ohio. Santa Margarita has made three prior trips to nationals and won a national title in 2013.
The Eagles’ roster includes forwards Brian Armijo, Jekabs Bisnieks, Joey Felicicchia, Nick Gluck, Dylan Hernandez-Ramirez, Will Howhannesian, Eric Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Jacob Makowecki, Nick Mauthe, John Mulvihill, Dietrich Olischefskii, Logan Orsini, Ryan Parkinson, Leevi Selanne, Jonathan Skule and Max Sullivan; defensemen Greg Bennett, Jackson Grosshans, Collin Marx, Brian Mathis, Kevin Peck and Hunter Voyles; and goalies Dennis Blaul and Trey Taylor.
Johnson is assisted by Kaelin Groon, Jesse Orsini and Kevin Skule.
The Eagles opened the state tournament on March 3 with a 2-0 loss to Orange Lutheran – their only defeat of the weekend – but responded the next day with a 5-1 victory over JSerra. Mauthe scored two goals and added an assist and Eric Johnson had two assists.
Santa Margarita skated to a 3-2 overtime victory against Bellarmine later that day to advance to the championship game. Mauthe and Bisnieks scored in the first period and then Mauthe netted the game-winner in OT.
In the title tilt, Santa Margarita earned a measure of redemption, toppling Orange Lutheran 5-2. Orsini scored twice in the first period to put the Eagles ahead early. Mauthe scored twice and Bisnieks added a tally for insurance.
The Eagles, founded in 2009, won back-to-back CAHA state titles in 2012 and 2013. The 2016-17 season was a truly remarkable one for Santa Margarita, which has developed a winning culture and built a foundation for success since it was one of the first teams in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL).
During the regular season, Santa Margarita went 12-4 in the ADHSHL, finishing second to Orange Lutheran, which lost just one regular-season game – to the Eagles in both teams’ last regular-season contest.
The Eagles outscored their opponents 82-41 this season.
Selanne led them with 12 goals, while Mauthe and Orsini each tallied 11. Bisnieks was the team’s assists leader with 12, and Selanne and Makowecki had 10 apiece.
Blaul went 5-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average and Taylor was 7-2 with a 2.84 GAA.
“We as a team have lots of respect for Orange Lutheran,” Johnson said. “They are a very good team with very good players and coaches. We knew we would have to take care of the puck better than we did on Friday for us to be successful against them. We received solid goaltending from Trey Taylor and I thought we brought sandpaper to our game. The Mauthe line was outstanding all weekend and especially in the championship game.”
— Greg Ball