West Ranch and Valencia hockey following different paths of growth

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West Ranch hockey abides by a two-word phrase when it comes to their playing style: “simple smart.”

“There’s nothing flashy about our game,” said coach Chris Greene. “I use the term simple smart, just working as hard as they can work and giving the best effort forward, grinding it out. And going to dirty areas and just playing simple hockey.”

That philosophy has led the Wildcats to a 2-1 start in LA Kings Hockey League play this season.

The Cats are statistically led by Michael Onda (three goals, one assist), Josh Watts (three goals one assist) and Justin Badillo (two goals, three assists), but there’s plenty of scoring depth across the roster.

“Working with these kids, I told them it’s going to be a team effort,” Greene, who is in his first year as head coach for West Ranch, said. “It’s going to be the bottom up, from our goalies, to our defense, to our forwards, everyone is going to contribute and we’ve done that.”

MORE: West ranch hockey set for season opener with new coach under helm

Senior Jack Titter has served as the Wildcats’ starting goalie and has a .868 save percentage as well as a shutout under his belt.

JV goaltenders Trevor Sandoval and Noah Duforset are rapidly developing and seeing some time with varsity.

Churning out solid players at the junior varsity level has been another priority for Greene this year.

“We’re going to be losing five seniors after this season, so we need develop these JV kids coming up, whether it’s a goalie or a player,” he said.

The Cats play Santa Barbara this weekend, a team they lost to in their previous game, 5-0. Puck drops at 7:45 p.m. at Ice Station Valencia on Saturday.

Valencia hockey has been experiencing growth of its own under first-year head coach Eric Stelnick. Building a team-first attitude has been his mission since the start of the season.

“The biggest skill set is that they’re playing as a team and they’re coming together,” Stelnick said. “…Its growing every game.”

The Vikings started out the season with a win on the road, but slipped into a three-game losing skid after, falling by three goals or less each game.

Corbin Zada has been a force for the Vikes despite the struggles, scoring three goals and adding two assists. He’s tied for first on the team in terms of goals alongside Tyler Waldman.

“Every game he brings 100 percent,” Stelnick said of Zada. “He comes ready to win. he always wants to win and he brings the team up every time and he works really hard.

Valencia’s next matchup is on Saturday, Nov. 11 against Kern County at Bakersfield Ice Center. Game time is 4:45 p.m.

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