Monday’s season opening CIF-Metro Conference roller hockey game at Skate San Diego between the Southwest Raiders and Chula Vista Spartans wasn’t scheduled by chance. The game featured a ceremonial puck drop honoring the memory of former Southwest assistant coach and former Chula Vista head coach Pam Wiser, who died in April from a brain aneurysm.
Wiser was among the pioneers in the CIF-Metro Conference, first cheering on her son Willie on the Spartans’ fledgling team and then taking over the reins of the team when it appeared it might fold for lack of a coach.
Her guidance and influence helped make the Spartans one of the first teams in the coed sport to stock its roster with an abundance of female players, with much success.
She spent the last two years as an assistant coach under Southwest coach Jerry Nestlerode.
The puck used in the ceremonial puck-drop was first given to Nestlerode by Wiser during Nestlerode’s first season with the Raiders. “I told her I didn’t have any pucks, and she gave me this one,” Nestlerode said. “It still says Chula Vista on it.”
Nestlerode and Wiser thus became friends while coaching rival teams over the past decade.
“She was a very kind-natured person and very involved in helping out elderly people and she absolutely loved animals,” Nestlerode said. “She was always taking in stray dogs and cats and trying to find them homes. A lot of good things she did transcended hockey.”
The Raiders won the game, which marked the Spartans’ switch from the Mesa League to the South Bay League, by a score of 11-4.
“It was a nice win for us,” Nestlerode said after the game. “I think Pam would have been proud because our two teams always enjoyed playing each other.”
The opening game featured hat tricks from three players — Southwest’s Angel Rocha and Steven Regaliza and Chula Vista’s Trevon Rogers.
Rogers scored the first goal of the 2011-12 season 1:42 into Monday’s game but it was the Raiders who stormed back for the victory.
Rocha and Regaliza both finished the contest with three goals and one assist while teammate Martin Winfield collected two goals and one assist.
Sean Garcia received credit for the victory between the pipes.
New name, same game
Teams will play for the renamed Kiwanis/Don Cerone Memorial Cup from now on to honor the memory of former Scripps Ranch coach Don Cerone, who was instrumental in the formation of roller hockey at the scholastic level in San Diego County.
A native New Yorker, Cerone was a college classmate of Hilltop coach Dan Vaccaro at RIT.
Cerone was killed in a single car accident on Aug. 8.
“It was a shock,” Vaccaro said. “When I proposed renaming the trophy at our preseason meeting, I didn’t meet any resistance. It was a unanimous decision by all the coaches.”
Cerone helped launch the still extant San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference in 1995, serving as founder and commissioner, and was a strong advocate of making roller hockey a California Interscholastic Federation sport.
Vaccaro, Cerone and Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand spearheaded the effort to help launch the CIF-Metro Conference in 2000.
“Dr. Brand was really the golden goose behind us going to CIF,” Vaccaro said. “But it was Don’s professionalism in dealing with the various schools that helped show everyone involved that roller hockey wasn’t just a hair-brained idea.”
Tentative plans, Vaccaro said, are to have Cerone’s widow, Debi Cerone, present the championship trophy to the winning team at the 2012 Kiwanis Cup championship game.
The 2011-12 season runs through Feb. 16, followed by championship playoffs. Game locations remain Skate San Diego, the Escondido Sports Center and an outdoor rink at Castle Park High School.
The conference has added one new team this season, the Del Norte Nighthawks, who will play in the North County League. Montgomery was expected to rejoin the conference this season but that move was put on hold due to an unfilled coaching position.
With the addition of Del Norte, conference membership is boosted to 18 teams, including nine Sweetwater district schools.
The conference alignment remains includes four divisional leagues: the Mesa League (four teams), South Bay League (five teams), North County League (five teams) and Central League (four teams).
The Mesa League includes the Bonita Vista Barons, Eastlake Titans, Hilltop Lancers and Otay Ranch Mustangs. Eastlake is the defending champion.
The South Bay League includes the Castle Park Trojans, Chula Vista Spartans, Mar Vista Mariners, Southwest Raiders and Sweetwater Red Devils. Mar Vista is the defending champion.
The North County League includes Del Norte, the Poway Titans, Rancho Bernardo Broncos, Scripps Ranch Falcons and Westview Wolverines. Rancho Bernardo is the defending champion.
The Central League includes the Cathedral Catholic Dons, La Jolla Country Day Torres, St. Augustine Saints and West Hills Wolf Pack. West Hills is the defending champion.
Westview shut out West Hills, 2-0, in last season’s Kiwanis Cup championship game to capture its third consecutive conference championship and fourth in the last six years. The teams rematched in Monday’s season opener, with the Wovlerines proving they were still two goals better in recording a 6-4 win.
In other notes, Chula Vista makes the move from the Mesa League to the South Bay League this season to follow the alignment with the rest of the conference’s sports.
Also, Ron Cole makes the move from head coach at Mar Vista High School to Eastlake High School.
The Mesa League looks fairly balanced this season, with Eastlake likely to receive challenges from both Otay Ranch and Hilltop for the league title – and automatic entry into the Kiwanis Cup playoffs.
The Titans are led by returning first team all-league goaltender Darius Newhall and a young cast ready to step up to fill the void left by departed top play-makers Jace White, Jordan Hines Zach McMahon and Alex Bule.
Among those returning to the EHS roster are Zac Zasueta, an all-league cross country standout, and Marshall Bawden, an experienced ice/roller player. Other players being counted on to contribute this season include Aric Alvarez, Jacky Ponce, Josh Randall and Nick Rodriguez.
Five freshmen, led by Aaron Meyer and Sam Bawden, also expect to make a huge impact on the team.
“Since this is my first year with the team and I am coming in as a new coach, I am calling this first season one of learning and evaluating,” Cole said. “But from what I can already see, we are going to be very competitive.”
Otay Ranch returns a young but extremely talented team under coach Adrian Rodriguez.
“We had a good season last year and I think we’ll have another good season,” the ORHS coach said.
The Mustangs finished runner-up to Eastlake in last year’s Mesa League standings but eliminated the Titans, 3-2, in a closely fought first round playoff game to advance to the Kiwanis Cup championship quarterfinals against top-seeded Rancho Bernardo.
“I’m excited about the potential all our young players have and what they can provide to the program in future seasons,” Rodriguez said.
Top returners from last season’s 12-10 team include Jon Managbanag, Cole Beatie, Matt Mendez, Joey Parisi and goalie Gabe Beatie.
Managbanag teamed with teammate Ryan Trego as the conference’s top scoring tandem in 2010-11. Managbanag tallied 51 goals and 26 assists for 77 points (third best in the conference).
Trego and Eastlake’s Jace White tied for the conference scoring lead with 94 points.
Both Beatie brothers earned second team all-league honors last season and bring extensive ice hockey experience to the court.
“Our team goal is to complete our five P’s – pride, position, passing, poise and possession,” the ORHS coach said. “If we can successfully complete those five parts of the game, we’ll definitely get some wins.”
Other young standout players include Kyle Hawkins and Carlos Barrios.
Rodriguez said he is looking for increased leadership role from those two players along with Mendez and Cole Beatie.
Hilltop 14, La Jolla Country Day 10
The newness of the season was apparent as both teams were breaking in new netminders in a non-league played Tuesday at Skate San Diego. Hilltop’s Kevin Kananu, who was lit up for 18 goals the previous day against Rancho Beranrdo, was a bit more battle-tested in earning his first victory of the season.
The Lancers, who evened their record at 1-1 in non-league play, skated out to a 4-0 lead and used their speed to zoom in front 8-3 before the pesky Torres mounted a heroic comeback in the second half of the game. Hilltop led 8-5 at the end of the second period. The teams combined for 11 goals in the final period, with the Lancers holding onto a 6-5 edge to secure the win.
Two long-range goals by Jeremiah “Boomer” Schultz helped seal the victory. Both shots came from three-quarters of the way down the rink and beat the LJCD goaltender through the five-hole — perfectly placed.
But it was the play of George Godinez that sparked the HHS offense. Godinez finished the game with seven goals and one assist. Schultz collected six points on four goals and two assists. Alfonso Arreguim contributed a goal and assist while Giovanni Rude and Tanner Franklin each picked up their first goals of the season. Sebastian Ross and Nick Tesner each were credited with one assist.
Jack Little matched Godinez with eight points on four goals and four assists while Ryan Owsiany turned in a good offensive showing with four goals and one assist. Christian Figliola chipped in with two goals and one assist.
“We played well,” Lancer coach Dan Vaccaro said. “Our goalie consistently made some good plays. We still have some work to do.”