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Fast-charging Titans draw even with Mustangs for Mesa League hockey title Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 15 2013 03:28 PM

First there was the dramatic come-from-behind 8-7 victory against the La Jolla Country Day Torreys on Feb. 1. Then there was the upset-of-the-season 4-3 win against the Cathedral Catholic Dons on Feb. 7.

And then there was Tuesday’s crowning achievement: a monumental 7-2 victory against the Otay Ranch Mustangs.

It all added up to a Mesa League co-championship for the spunky Eastlake Titans, who rolled into Wednesday’s regular season finale against the Scripps Ranch Falcons assured of an identical 7-2 league record with the Mustangs.

“We’ve improved drastically beginning about five or six games ago when we started playing as a team and not as individuals,” said EHS coach Ron Cole, whose team extended its winning streak to five games following Tuesday’s titanic win. “When our guys play as a team, we’re a force to be reckoned with.

“Every player on the team has improved, even my stand-in goalie (Zach Landry) who had never played the position until four weeks ago.”

Otay finished with a 29-21 shot advantage in Tuesday’s game, with Landry credited with 27 saves.

CIF-Metro Conference scoring leader Aaron Mayer, a sophomore, led the Titans with three goals.

The Mustangs (12-4-1) had defeated Eastlake (14-5) handily in the teams’ initial two league encounters by scores of 7-4 and 13-4, but a 7-0 upset loss to Hilltop reduced Otay’s lead in the standings to one game. The Titans did not squander their final opportunity to draw even.

A power play goal by Mayer left Eastlake with a 1-0 edge after the first period in Tuesday’s final conflict match-up. Classmate Michael Mechling doubled the score with 3:26 gone in the second period. Three more goals, including two on power plays by Mayer and Mechling and an even-strength goal by Nick Rodriguez, followed to give the Titans a commanding 5-0 lead.

Landry — one of several inexperienced newcomers to the team this season — managed to hold the Mustangs scoreless into the opening minutes of the third period. However, goals 52 seconds apart by Otay’s Matt Mendez and Gabe Beatie cut the Titans’ cushion to 5-2 with 10:15 to play. But a key insurance tally by Sam Bawden with 5:40 remaining upped the Eastlake lead to 6-2 — one that proved insurmountable.

Mayer completed his hat trick with an empty net goal with 47 ticks remaining on the game clock.

“Our goal this game was to play as a team, pass the puck and see the open man,” Cole said. “It’s all about team play. If we keep our heads up, swivel to see the open man, we’re a dangerous team.”

The “guys” include Jacky Ponce, who picked up one assist in the game — and two crowd-pleasing body-checks on male opponents.

“Jacky played the body tough,” the EHS coach said. “She put it on a couple of Otay players and put them both on the ground. She played a physical game.”

Mayer led the comeback against LJCD with three goals in the final three minutes to overturn a 7-5 Torreys lead; he had two goals and two assists against third-ranked Cathedral.

“I just want to help my team win,” said Mayer, who finished the season with 100 points on 62 goals and 38 assists in 19 games.

Mayer called the win over Cathedral the team’s highlight of the season so far.

Cole and his young crew are hoping their season doesn’t end quite yet.

The Titans are hoping their hot streak lands them a berth in the 2013 Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs. First-round action is scheduled Monday at a site to be determined.

The seeding meeting is Saturday. Ten of the conference’s 18 teams qualify, including league champions.

Hilltop’s George Godinez solidified his hold on second place in the conference scoring race with 91 points (62 goals, 29 assists) after tallying 10 points on four goals and six assists in Tuesday’s 11-0 win over Bonita Vista. The Lancers improved to 11-6 overall.

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