West Ranch hockey is set to become the sole prep hockey team in the Santa Clarita Valley after a merger initiated by the Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey League. Previously, there were three teams in the SCV: West Ranch, Valencia, and the Santa Clarita Cobras. But in the interest of growing youth hockey in the area, the trio of teams have fused. While the Valencia and Santa Clarita clubs struggled at times, the Wildcats found success. In its second season as a program in 2016-17, the Cats compiled an overall record of 14-2. They ended the most recent season 8-9. The Vikings failed to reach .500 in the past two seasons. The Cobras had a similar experience and did not have a season in 2017-18. The decision to absorb the two teams was a little tough to swallow for West Ranch, who took pride in being a “pure team,” meaning that the only players on the roster were West Ranch students. “Part of what made that decision easier was that we want to be aligned with the Kings and helping them grow hockey in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Jason McNamara, president of West Ranch hockey. “We look at it as a compliment to our program that they would like us to be the representative high school team in the Santa Clarita Valley.” The club was also hesitant because of the potential to be excluded from California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) Division 1 state championships, which only allows pure teams. However, the Wildcats will still have the opportunity to compete in the state championships at the Division 2 level, which allows non-pure teams. As West Ranch enters its fourth season as a program, it is welcoming the advantages that the merger will bring. For example, they’ll have a lot more players to choose from. Student-athletes from the William S. Hart, Acton-Agua Dulce, Antelope Valley and Los Angeles school districts are eligible, in addition to several private schools. Bulking up the roster will be a benefit when it comes to the Wildcats’ schedule, which includes more than 50 games in addition to showcases and tournaments. “We restricted ourselves to just having West Ranch students,” McNamara said. “It was a quest every year making sure we were going to have enough players to field a team. “…We should be able to be more competitive that’s the benefit to West Ranch and the benefit to the Kings organization and the league is now any high school age hockey player can participate in the program.” Varsity tryouts for West Ranch hockey took place on Tuesday and junior varsity tryouts will be today at 7 p.m. More information on tryouts and the SCV hockey merger can be found at westranchhockey.com.