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JSerra's hockey success carried by tightly bonded seniors
To be a team is to be like family.
A simple cliché such as this rings so true, especially when applied to this year’s JSerra hockey team.
The Lions were much more than a team that was assembled after a couple rounds of tryouts. Members of this team had gone to battle together time and again, and their bond was stronger for it.
JSerra was spoiled with experience, boasting a whopping 10 seniors on its roster. In high school hockey, size matters. There’s a reason why club hockey is divided into age groups.
Strength in numbers would have been enough to predict a successful season, but it was how JSerra’s seniors developed together that made them far more dangerous on the ice.
“The senior group was the core of the team,” forward Francis Lemay said. “Most of us had been playing together for four years, and some of us had even been playing together before.
“By our senior year, we knew where each of us would stand. It made the plays easy to develop.”
Playing alongside fellow seniors Jacob Lauricella and Zachary Brunelle, Lemay thrived in his final year. He led the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League Division 1 field with 17 goals.
Lemay, who at times was reunited with his old linemate, Brendan Pagani, was also tied for the league lead in points, with 24. Freshman teammate Blake Reed and Orange Lutheran’s Zach Pires matched that mark.
Lauricella and Lemay each scored three goals in the Lions’ two postseason victories to capture the Division 1 league title. JSerra defeated Bellarmine of San Jose, 7-2, before edging Orange Lutheran, 3-2, in the championship game.
“Any time you have a large group of seniors in a high school sport, you tend to have success,” JSerra coach Mike Perkins said. “That’s what happened to us this year. We had a quality group of kids. They’re not only good hockey players, but they’re good students.”
Led by two-year captain Zachary Fiedler, the Lions went 37-13-3 in the 2015-16 campaign, the most wins for a single season in school history. The final two wins came against the past two national champions (Bethel Park/PA and Regis Jesuit/CO) in the group stage of the USA High School Hockey Nationals in Virginia.
JSerra’s senior class is also its winningest group ever. The Lions’ seniors had over 120 wins in their four years with the program.
“To win our league regular season and then win a league championship is a testament to our senior leadership and the work that those guys put in for four years,” Perkins said. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments of this group. It is the winningest group in JSerra history.”
With all the accolades that JSerra has gathered in recent years, it wasn’t difficult for Lauricella to sort out his favorite memories in a Lions uniform.
“It’s probably sophomore year in winning state,” Lauricella said. “Then overall, just hanging out and bonding with the team for all four years. We were really like the first class to build that bond throughout the four years. So many kids stayed for the entire time.”
Goaltender Nicolas Valdez touched on the communal nature of playing for his school.
“It’s really cool having your classmates come to watch you,” Valdez said. “A lot of people at school have realized that this was a good year for us.
“People come up to us and say, ‘The hockey team is so good. You guys are doing so well this season.’ It’s really nice to have that.”
Sophomore Servite-transfer Landon Pavlisin split time between the pipes with Valdez this season. Valdez left these words of advice for his fellow netminder.
“JSerra hockey was an amazing experience, and I just try to tell him to stick with it,” Valdez said. “I’m very glad that I played all these years of high school. It’s been the best experience of my high school career. I hope he makes that decision, too.”
The other seniors on this year’s team were Lucas Franssen, Kyle Pellegrino, Eric Phillips and Mason Pilkington.