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Eastlake’s crown prince of hockey Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 21 2014 03:20 PM

Nine minutes into Monday’s non-league high school roller hockey clash between the Eastlake Titans and Sweetwater Red Devils at the Castle Park High School rink, a brief play stoppage took place to present Eastlake junior Aaron Mayer with a keepsake puck.

Mayer appeared somewhat bewildered by all the fuss but the official presentation was “a big deal” in the words of Titan head coach Ron Cole.

Mayer had just set a new single-season point-scoring record in the 18-team CIF-Metro Conference with his assist on a goal by teammate Nick Ziccardi.

It was a special moment in time for Mayer, the Titan hockey program, and the conference as a whole.
It was time to crown a new prince.

The assist was Mayer’s 127th point of the season, which eclipsed the former single-season points-scoring record of 126 points set by Castle Park’s Donny McGraw during the 2002-03 season.

In 11 seasons since McGraw etched his place in conference history, no other player had come quite that close, much less with the ability to match that.

Mayer led the conference in scoring last season as a sophomore with 100 points, so perhaps the writing was finally on the wall.

“I think it’s important to note that the record point came on an assist, not a goal,” Cole pointed out.

For Mayer, however, it was likely just another point among many. He finished Monday’s game — a rather lackluster 24-0 win over the Red Devils — with three goals and seven assists. The 10 points increased his season point-scoring total to 135.

He tacked on five more points — three goals and two assists — in Tuesday’s 16-3 Mesa League win over rival Otay Ranch to up his season total to 140, and added five more points (three goals, two assists) in an 8-5 non-league setback to defending Kiwanis Cup champion West Hills on Thursday.

The Titans have at least two games remaining on their 2013-14 schedule.

Eastlake closes out regular season play with a game Friday afternoon at the CPHS rink against the Hilltop Lancers and is guaranteed at least one game in next week’s Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs.

How long will Mayer’s prolific numbers stand the test of time? He could break them if he returns to play next season.

Mayer has clearly established himself as a pinnacle player. He can score goals but he also takes the effort to draw up intricate ways to set up teammates. If he can’t get off a shot in a particular situation, maybe a teammate can. Either way, a goal is a goal and an assist is an assist and they all add up.

Mayer is the consummate complete package player, and that’s been evident since he first stepped onto the playing court as a freshman to lead the Titans in scoring despite being overpowered by more physical upperclassmen.

Mayer still isn’t physically overpowering. He’s grown a bit at 5-feet-8 and 130 pounds but still hasn’t hit full maturity.

Cole calls Mayer the team’s “quiet giant.”

It’s an appropriate description. For those who have followed Mayer’s inline hockey career, he’s not the type to showboat or break into wild celebration after scoring a goal.

At best, you might see a slight smile noting the moment.

He just likes going out there and doing his thing, which is playing hockey. He lets his skills do the talking on the playing court and those skills are considerable.

“He’s a great kid to coach,” Cole said. “He’s a gifted hockey player. He’s got great hands and great awareness. He sees plays develop two steps ahead of other players. He has great rink awareness. He knows where his teammates are. I wish he were two feet taller.”

“I have a lot more experience than most of the other players, so I can tell where the puck is going to be,” Mayer explained.

Wiz kid
Mayer has played roller hockey since he was 5 years old and got involved in ice hockey two years later.

“It was fun, it was something different learning to skate,” he said.

As good as he is on inline skates, Mayer may be even better on blades.

Mayer’s San Diego Junior Gulls Bantam AA ice hockey team advanced to the 2011-12 USA Hockey national championship tournament in Wayne, N.J. The Gulls finished 2-1 at the national finals.

“It was a great experience because all the teams were so good,” Mayer said.

Though the intensity level or adrenaline rush might not be the same, Mayer said he enjoys playing high school roller hockey and representing his school.

“It’s fun to play with people you go to school with — to have something to talk about at school,” he said. “It feels good knowing that Eastlake is competitive in hockey.” 

He’s won just about every major team award while playing for Eastlake.

Mayer said playing the more wide-open sport of roller hockey has helped his game on ice with stick-handling and passing.

“It feels great to help my teammates, I just like to see my team do well,” he said. “If I score a goal, I think it makes it easier for my team to get a win.”

Cole describes Mayer as being the type of player who “makes everyone around him better.”

“He takes joy in assisting his teammates,” Cole said in regard to Mayer. “His mission is to help everyone become their best. It’s cool.”

Mayer has prospered playing alongside classmates Michael Mechling and Sam Bawden. The three joined the Titans as freshmen and have terrorized opponents since then.

They complement each other extremely well on the playing surface.

Mechling finished Tuesday’s game against Otay Ranch with 37 goals and 31 assists to rank fourth in scoring among Sweetwater district teams while Bawden was right behind with 35 goals and 19 assists.

“We know each other because we’ve been playing with each other every day (for the past three years), so it’s easy to now where they are (on the rink),” Mayer said.

New horizons

The Titans are having their best season during Mayer’s playing tenure with the team. Eastlake improved to 15-3 overall following Tuesday’s win over the Mustangs and are 8-0 in Mesa League play, having already secured sole rights to this season’s league championship.

The Titans shared last year’s league title with Otay Ranch, though only the Mustangs advanced to compete in the Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs.

This will be Mayer’s first trip to post-season competition and he and his teammates are hoping it will be a memorable one.

Eastlake ranks among the better teams in the multi-playing ability conference and could land a favorable seed for the upcoming playoffs.

The Titans last advanced to the championship game in 2003-04 when they dropped an 8-4 decision to the Scripps Ranch Falcons. It was the final victory of a remarkable 22-0-0 campaign for the Falcons, who remain the only team in conference history to advance through the Kiwanis Cup playoffs with an undefeated season. 

Eastlake dropped a 12-3 non-league match-up to Westview, the top-ranked team for much of the 2013-14 season, on Feb. 12. Still, advancing into the quarterfinals — or even the semifinals — would be blazing new territory for this young group.

“We’d like to go as far as we can in the playoffs,” Cole said.

Next level
The Titan phenom would like to play in the NHL one day and admits his somewhat diminutive stature, at least at present, may be a hindrance. But he’s proven that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“You just have to make do and produce on your own and get better,” Mayer said.
Cole feels college hockey might be an acceptable route to the pros.

“He could write his own ticket to the next level,” the EHS coach said. “I can see him playing college ice hockey somewhere and being successful later in life. However far he wants to take his playing career, the best is yet to come.”

Quiet giant? For now, call him Eastlake’s crown prince of hockey.

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