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Three O.C. teams playing in CAHA State Championship
ANAHEIM – If the trend of hockey players choosing high school over club is to be believed, this weekend’s CAHA State Championship might be the best case for that argument.
In its fifth year of existence, the four-team, round-robin tournament showcases the top teams that California hockey has to offer.
It just so happens that the state’s top teams are the same four schools that make up the Division 1 field of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League: Orange Lutheran, JSerra, Santa Margarita, and Bellarmine of San Jose.
“These are the premier teams that have been competitive at nationals over the years,” Lancers coach Dan Adams said. “For anyone who is interested in watching some fast-paced, physical, high-level hockey, then Anaheim Ice will be the place to be this weekend.”
What: CAHA State Championship
Where: The Rinks, Anaheim Ice, 300 W. Lincoln Ave.
Saturday's schedule: JSerra vs. Santa Margarita, 10 a.m.; Bellarmine of San Jose vs. Orange Lutheran, noon; Championship game, 8 p.m.
Tickets: Free. Parking: Free with validation
The Orange County schools have ruled this tournament. Santa Margarita won it back-to-back the first two years. JSerra won in 2014, and Orange Lutheran was crowned state champion last season.
The prize is a trip to Nationals, a goal the Lancers (10-4-0-2) have not been shy about expressing. But after last year’s dominant run, it seems the rest of the pack caught up with Orange Lutheran in the second half this year. The Lancers dropped four of their last five games in league, twice to JSerra (12-3-0-1).
With championship experience on all three rosters, it didn’t take the second half’s display of parity for Lions coach Mike Perkins to instill belief in his team's roster.
“We have 10 seniors that have been a part of this, and the majority of them were a part of the state championship team two years ago,” Perkins said. “They have the experience of being there and knowing what it’s like.”
JSerra seized control of its own destiny with a 4-1 win over the Lancers in the CAHA State Tournament opener.
The Lions scored twice on the power play, but they were also the recipients of two fortuitous bounces. In the second period, Eric Phillips broke a 1-1 tie when his cross-ice pass deflected off a Lancers defenseman and over the shoulder of goaltender Conner Taherian.
From there, Landon Pavlisin was the difference. The Lions goalie made 29 saves. He robbed Jackson Niedermayer with a great glove save to keep the score even early in the second.
Each team will play the other three once, with the top two teams in the round-robin format qualifying for the championship game, which is Saturday night at 8 p.m.. Teams receive three points for a regulation victory, two for an overtime/shootout win, and one in an overtime/shootout loss.
Santa Margarita beat Bellarmine, 6-1, giving the Lions and Eagles the edge to reach the state title game after the first round of play.
Jekabs Bisnieks had two goals and an assist. Nick Mauthe added a goal and an assist.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Jacob Heller, Orange Lutheran, Wing: He is the ADHSHL’s all-time scoring leader with 82 points for his career. Don’t blink or you might miss something.
• Ryan Sanchez, Orange Lutheran, Defenseman: The Lancers don’t mind activating their defenseman on the attack. When they do, Sanchez is a big part of that. He has 13 points from the blue line in league play.
• Blake Reed, JSerra, Center: The Lions’ 5-foot-10, 190-pound freshman has a heavy slap shot that is just one of JSerra’s weapons on its effective power play.
• Landon Pavlisin, JSerra, Goalie: A hot goalie is always a good commodity to have in the postseason. The Lions netminder controlled rebounds well against Orange Lutheran Friday morning.
• Cavin McClare, Santa Margarita, Center: The Eagles’ captain is tied with Leevi Selanne for the team lead in goals with 12. He has 20 points in 16 games.
• Jack Hardwick and Dylan Gluck, Santa Margarita, Goalies: Santa Margarita’s goaltending tandem is solid. Both are in the top five in goals-against average, and they have been perennial All Stars for their careers with the Eagles.
• Jared Southwell, Bellarmine, Forward: The Bells captain is a gritty power forward that is not afraid to go into the high-traffic areas to create scoring opportunities.