There are times when events become so compelling that you just have to put down your camera and watch in amazement.
Tuesday evening at the Castle Park High School roller rink was one of those times.
It’s no secret by now that the Bonita Vista High School roller hockey team has made great strides under veteran coach Keith Quigley this season in an effort to recapture some of the team’s magic from a decade ago. The Barons, to put it bluntly, have been the doormat of the Mesa League for the past six seasons, registering a combined 9-53 league record over that span, including a 1-25 mark the last three seasons.
In fact, the pulse was so low after last winning a league title in 2004-05 that few students on campus likely knew the school even had a roller hockey team.
But not any more.
Not after Tuesday’s huge statement win over the Otay Ranch Mustangs.
Quigley called the 9-6 victory against the defending league co-champions one of the team’s “biggest wins in years.”
“We haven’t beaten Otay in years,” Quigley said. “We were down twice by two goals in the game and still managed to come back. I told the kids before the game that if we could win this game that it would be a statement to the rest of the teams in the South Bay.”
The manner in which the Barons won Tuesday’s game was highly reminiscent of the team’s overtime victory against a heavily favored Scripps Ranch team to claim the 2001-02 Kiwanis Cup championship title. Bonita Vista’s defense absorbed wave after wave of offensive thrusts by the rapid-fire Falcons, then led by Dan Comrie, the greatest player of that era. But Comrie and Co. could never quite solve BVHS goaltender Doug Lentz to their satisfaction and an opportunistic counterattack goal by Joey Galeno in sudden-death overtime handed the Barons their greatest victory.
Lentz is credited to this day with the greatest individual performance by a goaltender in one game.
Substitute Otay Ranch sharpshooter Devyn Taras for Comrie and BV netminder Hawk Anderson for Lentz and you have the making of another classic contest.
“Hawk stood on his head just like Doug Lentz did,” Quigley offered, still somewhat in a state of shock over the outcome of Tuesday’s contest.
The Barons got help at the other end of the rink from senior Jonathan O’Brien, who scored all nine BVHS goals in the game, including three in a row to rescue his team from a 5-3 deficit in the second period and the final three goals to seal the victory.
“A triple hat trick,” O’Brien smiled widely after the game.
The teams were meeting for the second time this season in league play. The Mustangs captured the opener by an 8-6 score in another seesaw battle — one that ended in Otay Ranch’s favor with a late rush to spoil a courageous effort by the underdog Barons.
A similar outcome appeared ready to repeat itself when Taras tied the game, 6-6, with 3:30 to play after Quigley’s crew had courageously managed to protect a one-goal lead for the balance of the final period.
But this time it was the Barons who provided the late rush.
O’Brien pounced on a turnover near the boards with under two minutes to play in regulation and headed up the court on a breakaway. His seventh goal of the game proved to be the lucky charm to give his team a 7-6 lead.
He added two more empty-net goals in the final minute to cap an amazing comeback.
It was vintage Barons — something that Quigley is trying to re-inject into the program.
“I think this team is starting to share something together, something appears to be coming together,” noted Quigley, whose team improved to 5-2 on the season, 1-2 in league play. “I’ve been trying to get the team back to how it was, to change the culture on the team.”
It’s definitely working.
Quigley was quick to note that Tuesday’s statement win was an entire team effort. “Everybody played their best,” the BVHS coach said.
For O’Brien, however, Tuesday’s victory was especially sweet. “During my four years on the team, we had never beaten Otay Ranch,” he said. “Because they were a league rival, it was a great win.”
O’Brien is the team’s quintessential goal-scorer. His nine goals on Tuesday — and four more in Monday’s equally inspirational 5-3 comeback win against Mar Vista in a non-league encounter — upped his season totals to 34 goals and one assist. He hopes to play collegiate ice hockey either at the NCAA Division III level or ACHA Division II or Division III levels.
“There was one point in the third period when they (the Mustangs) had the puck in our zone for four or five minutes,” O’Brien recalled of the pivotal turning point in Tuesday’s exciting contest. “They were peppering our net with shots and all we could do was to block shots try to clear the puck out of our zone.”
Otay Ranch’s blitzkrieg was finally rewarded with the game-tying goal from Taras, the team’s dynamo. But the game didn’t stay tied for long.
“When I was going for my eighth goal, I didn’t even notice they had taken their goalie out,” O’Brien said.
Monday’s victory was just as amazing, but for another reason. The Barons, who are fielding one of their largest teams in years, had just five skaters at their disposal due to various reasons.
O’Brien played ironman hockey, never leaving the court, as he and his teammates rallied from a 3-1 deficit after the Mariners had seemingly gained control of the game’s momentum at a critical juncture. The Barons’ big man took care of business, however, with three consecutive goals to give his team a 4-3 lead and Giancarlo Dongo tapped in the insurance goal on a rebound to cap a run of four unanswered BVHS goals to end the game.
It was an emotionally stirring performance.
“The five skaters we had gave it all they had, they left it on the rink,” Quigley said. “Before the game, I told the kids that whatever happened to give it all they’ve got but also to have fun. That’s all a coach can ask — for each player to give it all they’ve got.
“Being down 3-1 and missing half the team, to come back and win (like that) was more than just exciting. I’m totally psyched at this point.”
Taras scored all six Mustang goals in Tuesday’s game to give him 14 goals and five assists on the season. Otay Ranch saw its overall record dip to 3-2, 2-1 in league, with the loss to Bonita Vista.
Eastlake scored a key 11-6 non-league victory against Scripps Ranch in a game played Monday at RSportz Arena in El Cajon. The Titans — Mesa League co-champs with the Mustangs last year — improved to 5-1 on the season.
Aaron Mayer, last season’s conference scoring leader, led Eastlake with six goals while Sam Bawden chipped in with three goals and Nick Rodriguez and Will Winters each scored once in support of goaltender Gabe Sanchez, who collected 34 saves on 40 shots by the Falcons (2-5 overall, 1-3 in North County League play).
“We kept control of the game throughout the game,” Titan coach Ron Cole said. “They got some momentum in the second period when they made it an 8-6 game but our boys got the momentum back and finished up the game on a strong note.”
Eastlake increased its record to 6-1 overall, 3-0 in league play, following Tuesday’s 15-1 win over Hilltop at the Castle Park rink.
Mayer is ahead of last year’s scoring pace with 32 goals and 50 points in just six game appearances this season. He had two goals and six assists in Tuesday’s match-up against the Lancers (3-4 overall, 0-3 in league).
Short-handed Barons buck the odds to edge Mariners in thriller
It was not the most ideal way to start the 2014 calendar year — fielding a team with half the normal roster— but Monday’s dramatic 5-3 come-from-behind victory posted by the Bonita Vista High School roller hockey team in a non-league encounter against Mar Vista at the Castle Park High School rink turned out to be one of the most exciting wins ever for the Barons.
“This was the proudest I’ve ever felt about my team after a game,” extolled BVHS coach Keith Quigley, who has coached the Barons for 16 years. “Being down 3-1 and missing half the team, to come back and win this game was more than just exciting. I’m totally psyched at this point.
“The five skaters we had gave it all they had, they left it on the rink. Before the game, I told the kids to give it all they had but also to have fun. That’s all a coach can ask –- for each player to give it all they’ve got.”
Actually, this season’s roster of 16 players constitutes one of the largest teams Quigley has fielded in recent years but, coming back from the holiday break, the team’s line-up was reduced to about half its usual game-day muster.
“Unfortunately, we had some people missing for some other things,” the BVHS coach said. “Before the game it wasn’t looking good, but I told the kids that we still might be able to beat those guys if they all played their best. They also had to have the right attitude.”
Bonita Vista, which improved to 4-2 overall, entered the game with just one substitute on the bench while Mar Vista had two. The game proved exceptionally even on the playing court and both teams, in fact, skated to a scoreless opening period, though not for the lack of scoring chances.
Both netminders — Bonita Vista’s Hawk Anderson and Mar Vista’s Bryan Dennis — proved to be at the top of their game, batting away breakaways and covering up defensive turnovers to keep the game at an even keel.
Jon O’Brien broke the scoreless tie with an unassisted goal to put the Barons up 1-0. But Cindy Moeller, assisted by teammate Austin Hoffman, pounced on an errant pass by a BV defender in front of the net to tie the game at a goal apiece.
After the teams had battled to a 1-1 standoff through two periods, the floodgates opened in the final period as the teams combined to score six goals.
Billy Warren got the first two goals to put the Mariners ahead 3-1 and it appeared Mar Vista had all the momentum at that point. But O’Brien, pacing himself on a warm day, turned the momentum to the Barons’ side with three unanswered goals to put his team up 4-3.
Michelle Dunnells drew the assist on O’Brien’s second goal of the game to narrow the MVHS lead to 3-2. O’Brien then scored his hat trick goal on a breakaway with 4:33 to play in regulation to tie the game at three goals apiece.
Bonita Vista’s last two goals to cap a run of four unanswered goals came on a pair of rebounds at point-blank distance in front of Dennis.
O’Brien notched his fourth goal of the game to push his team in front, 4-3, with just over two minutes to play.
The game-icing goal was delivered with a bit of hustle from Giancarlo Dongo, who broke for the net after O’Brien took the puck down the sideboards. O’Brien passed out in front and Dongo managed to tap in the rebound for a 5-3 BVHS lead with a minute to play.
“It felt great, especially in a comeback game,” said Dongo, who doubles as the lacrosse goalie at BVHS during the spring season. “Even though we were down two goals and had less people (than usual), we had to work twice as hard.”
That hard work was exemplified, in particular, by Anderson, who managed to shut out the Mariners for the balance of the game after giving up his third goal, thus giving his team a chance to rally for the win.
“Hawk is becoming one of the top goalies in the South Bay,” Quigley said. “Both goalies were amazing in this game. The Mar Vista goalie stopped a lot of shots.
“But it’s not just Hawk’s goalie skills but his leadership that is so important for our team. He has such a positive attitude. I told him that he would have to lead the team this season, and he is our leader.”
Dennis, a four-year player on the MVHS team, admitted he played one of his best games this season. “The key is to keep your head in the game and stay focused and remember that angles are always your best friend. If you have the right angle, then you are in the right position.”
The loss dropped the Mariners’ season record to 3-4. But at 3-1in South Bay League play with a 4-2 setback to league-leading Southwest prior to the holiday break, Mar Vista remains in contention for this year’s league title.
“This is one of the smallest teams we’ve had — I’ve been on teams with 30 and 18 players and this year we have seven or eight,” Dennis said. “What smaller teams do is to bring everyone closer together like a family.”
Both teams could certainly relate to that during Monday’s game.
“These are the types of games that you live to play for,” Quigley said.
O’Brien upped his season point total to 27 points on 26 goals and one assist to rank second in scoring among Sweetwater district teams.
Hilltop 8, Castle Park 4
Jan. 15 at CPHS: Phillip Fuñe led the Lancers with a hat trick while Sebastian Ross had two goals and Andrew Tesner had a goal and two assists.
CIF-Metro Conference 2013-14 Standings
(Through Jan. 17)
South Bay League
Southwest Raiders 5-0, 6-1
Mar Vista Mariners 4-2, 4-5
Castle Park Trojans 3-2, 3-6
Sweetwater Red Devils 1-3, 1-5
Chula Vista Spartans 0-6, 0-8
Eastlake Titans 3-0, 7-1
Otay Ranch Mustangs 2-1, 3-3
Bonita Vista Barons 1-2, 5-2
Hilltop Lancers 0-3, 4-4
Cathedral Catholic Dons 3-0, 5-1
West Hills Wolf Pack 2-0, 4-2
La Jolla Country Day Torreys 1-2, 4-4
St. Augustine Saints 0-4, 1-6
North County League
Westview Wolverines 5-1, 7-1
Rancho Bernardo Broncos 4-2, 6-2
Poway Titans 3-3, 5-3
Scripps Ranch Falcons 2-3, 3-5
Del Norte Nighthawks 0-5, 0-8
Monday, Jan. 6
West Hills 8, St. Augustine 2
Cathedral Catholic 8, La Jolla Country Day 1
Wednesday, Jan. 8
Scripps Ranch 6, West Hills 3
Westview 12, La Jolla Country Day 2
Poway 12, St. Augustine 1
Cathedral Catholic 1, Del Norte 0 (forfeit)
Monday, Jan. 13
North County League
Westview 6, Poway 5
Rancho Bernardo 1, Del Norte 0 (forfeit)
Bonita Vista 5, Mar Vista 3
Eastlake 11, Scripps Ranch 6
Tuesday, Jan. 14
Eastlake 15, Hilltop 1
Bonita Vista 9, Otay Ranch 6
Wednesday, Jan. 15
North County League
Rancho Bernardo 9, Westview 3
Scripps Ranch 6, Poway 5 (OT)
Cathedral Catholic 7, Del Norte 4
Hilltop 8, Castle Park 4
La Jolla Country Day 13, Otay Ranch 0
Thursday, Jan. 16
South Bay League
Southwest 7, Chula Vista 2
Castle Park 5, Mar Vista 4
Friday, Jan. 17
South Bay League
Mar Vista 4, Chula Vista 0
Southwest 14, Sweetwater 0
Eastlake 26, Castle Park 0
CIF-Metro Conference Scoring Leaders
(Through Jan. 17)
Sweetwater District Teams
•Aaron Mayer (Eastlake) 38 goals, 28 assists, 66 points
•Jon O’Brien (Bonita Vista) 34 goals, 1 assist, 35 points
•Michael Mechling (Eastlake) 17 goals, 17 assists, 34 points
•Angel Rocha (Southwest) 26 goals, 4 assists, 30 points
•Sam Bawden (Eastlake) 14 goals, 7 assists, 21 points
•Devyn Taras (Otay Ranch) 14 goals, 5 assists, 19 points
•Nacho Mireles (Castle Park) 13 goals, 3 assists, 16 points
•Eloy Rodriguez (Mar Vista) 15 goals, 0 assists, 15 points
•Sebastian Ross (Hilltop) 11 goals, 4 assists, 15 points
•Andrew Tesner (Hilltop) 9 goals, 5 assists, 14 points
•Nick Ziccardi (Eastlake) 9 goals, 5 assists, 14 points
•Phillip Fuñe (Hilltop) 11 goals, 2 assists, 13 points
•Will Winters (Eastlake) 10 goals, 3 assists, 13 points
•Nick Rodriguez (Eastlake) 8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points
•Austin Hoffman (Mar Vista) 8 goals, 3 assists, 11 points
•Carlos Barrios (Otay Ranch) 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points
•Ulises Mireles (Sweetwater) 9 goals, 1 assist, 10 points
•Billy Warren (Mar Vista) 8 goals, 2 assists, 10 points
•Miguel Flores (Castle Park) 8 goals, 1 assist, 9 points
•Danny Castillo (Eastlake) 8 goals, 0 assists, 8 points
•Mario Licudine (Sweetwater) 6 goals, 1 assist, 7 points
•Gabe Sanchez (Eastlake) 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points
•Thomas Giltner (Bonita Vista) 5 goals, 1 assist, 6 points
•Henry Avalos (Southwest) 5 goals, 1 assist, 6 points
•Danny Diaz (Southwest) 5 goals, 1 assist, 6 points
•Sheina Dunnells (Bonita Vista) 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
•Danny Castillo (Eastlake) 5 goals, 0 assists, 5 points
•Marvin Cirignano (Castle Park) 5 goals, 0 assists, 5 points
•Isaac Montero (Castle Park) 4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points
•Pablo Corona (Hilltop) 4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points