The Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey League’s three Santa Clarita Valley teams are finishing up the regular season, and one team has playoffs on the brain.
West Ranch has been able to remain one of the top teams in the league this season thanks to their shot-happy mindset.
“Our main strategy is just to crash the net, for sure,” said left wing Anderson Lee. “If you get it in the zone, drive the net.”
While the number of goals has been growing, the goals against average has been shrinking. The Cats have a goals against average of 3.46, a testament to their developing defense and goaltenders Jack Titter and Tate Matishius, who have been splitting time in net.
“We really work on the d-zone and offensive zone,” said right wing Luke Boss. “I think the flow between both is really important. Keep working at it and as long as you work at it, you’ll get better.”
West Ranch (11-2) currently sits in second place in league behind defending league champion Santa Barbara and is led by top-scorers Jackson Vercellono (23 goals, 26 assists) and Tristan Warr (26 goals, 20 assists).
The only two losses on the season are to Santa Barbara, which the Cats think they’ll be more prepared for if they face the team in playoffs.
A tournament over the holiday break in Minnesota that featured teams from Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada has upped the Cats’ confidence.
“That really showed us what hockey is all about,” Boss, who has 15 points this season, said. “And Santa Barbara compared to all the teams up north, they aren’t really that much of competition. I think we can definitely beat them this year.”
West Ranch has three regular-season games remaining.
Here’s how the rest of SCV hockey is faring this season:
The Cobras (3-10), who are in their second year as an LAKHSHL team, have found their stride as a team as this season comes to a close.
“At the beginning we were lacking the confidence, kind of afraid to go for the puck, afraid to go to the corners, afraid to get hit,” said assistant coach Michael Schlecht. “They’ve kind of stepped it up and kind of got out that comfort zone and started to play hockey.”
The team has shuffled lines throughout the season and has found a solid top-line combination
in Cameron Whicker, Daniel Bennett and Matt Bennett.
“Right now I feel like … we play together and we have pretty good chemistry with good passing and know where each other is on the ice,” Whicker, a freshman, said.
Anthony Kroup and Logan Resendez have been the top paring on defense, although Kroup has missed half of the season due to tendonitis.
Goaltenders Dominic Caravaggio and Adam Rousselo have been splitting time in net and have .838 and .831 save percentages, respectively.
“At practices I’m trying extra things to go to the next level,” Rousselo said. “I’m pushing myself a lot more than I did at the beginning of the season.”
The Vikings have experienced just about all the ups and downs of a first-year program.
There’s a mix of grades and experience, but there’s been consistent determination across the roster.
“The strongest part of our team has been the determination to get better,” said assistant coach Chris Lazar. “They’re always on the rink, they’re always there early, they always want to try and get better. Not just to win, just overall as a team learn to play together.”
Valencia (0-13) has been led by Luke Rowe, a forward who brings speed and scoring. Rowe is the top offensive performer with 11 points.
Corbin Zeda is second on the team with nine points. He’s switched between offense and defense depending on the team’s needs, but has a physical presence regardless of his position.
Freshman Brandon Iles has been in net and completes a defense that continues to develop as the games go on.
“Because of the amount of time we spend in the defensive zone, our defense has shown a lot of improvement just from game experience alone, let alone practices,” Lazar said.
“They realize when they make a mistake. And they learn from it, and they get better the next shift and it progresses.”