West Ranch hockey burned out early and couldn’t recover as their Friday night showdown with the top team in the LA Kings High School Hockey League wore on.
The Cats were tough, but they couldn’t break through Santa Barbara’s defensive stronghold as they went down 6-1 at Ice Station Valencia.
Within the first eight minutes, Santa Barbara would score four more times, sending Wildcats into a 5-0 hole.
“With our team, I think one goal will really hurt us,” said right wing Michael Onda. “But I think we need to change that by being okay with it and going back and it should make us want the next goal more.”
The team finally countered with a power play goal of its own with 6:15 remaining in the first period. Josh Watts centered a pass from Jackson Vercellono at the top of the slot, then ripped a shot past Royals goaltender Will Hahn.
“Our special teams was one of the positives from today,” said Watts. “We moved the puck, we had it most of the time in their zone. I think if we had more power play chances we could’ve come back in the game.”
On the other wide of the first intermission, Tristan Warr got missed a shot from Hahn’s left side, and a flurry of Cats quickly rebounded.
Rebounding turned into extra curriculars as a scrum broke out to the right of the net. Warr and Santa Barbara’s Jack Johnson both received 10-minute majors as a result.
West Ranch couldn’t get around the Royals’ iron clad net presence.
With 4:29 remaining in the second period, fisticuffs broke out once again. After the debacle, West Ranch’s Kameron Chan walked a way with a game misconduct.
“I think that (first) goal was a momentum changer and then once we started retaliating again, it brought the momentum back down,” said Watts.
The Royals scored once more to close out the second period 6-1.
It was a lot to take in, but in a way, it was what the Wildcats needed.
Shots increased and passing got smarter. Warr opened the period with a breakaway shot that bounced off the post.
He got his goal however, with one minute remaining in the final frame.
It was the perfect ending to distract from West Ranch’s earlier mistakes.
“(We learned) not to give up,” Onda said. “We have to win every period that we play. Keep pushing and keep going as hard as we can.”