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From Skate San Diego to Corona Ducks: Have hockey stick, will travel Phillip Brents | Fri, May 06 2011 11:42 PM

When the San Diego Voodoo elected to cease operations for the 2010-11 American Inline Hockey League season, its two marquee players  — Dave Brito and "Speedy" Gonzalez, both former Team USA gold medal-winners — were suddenly left in a hockey void. But that turned out to be only temporary, as the standout tandem took their act northward for what turned out to be a very productive stint with the Corona Ducks.

 “For top level players, there is no place to play (outside of the AIHL) except in top house leagues or tournaments and the tournaments are so spread out,” Brito said prior to a recent triple-A league game at Skate San Diego in National City.

The Voodoo’s tenure in the highly competitive circuit ended at two seasons after several of the team’s higher profile players either relocated for better employment opportunities in the poor economy, joined the military or got married over the offseason. Voodoo general manager Joe Noris didn’t have a very good feeling about a prospective third season with the remaining core of the team reduced to a skeleton line-up.

“The timing was just not right,” Noris said of the decision to suspend operations for the Voodoo. “The best teams in the league all happened to be in our division and I felt it would be difficult to field a competitive team with what we were facing.”

But the timing was right for the Voodoo’s two marquee players.

Brito led the Ducks in regular season scoring with 32 goals in 22 games. He finished second overall in point-scoring by tacking on 14 assists for 46 points.

Gonzalez finished fourth deep in team scoring with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) as a defenseman.

Both players helped anchor the Ducks’ second line.

“It was pretty cool playing for a different organization and adjusting to new players,” said Gonzalez, who won a gold medal at the 2008 FIRS (Federation of International Roller Sports) championship in Germany after stepping into the spotlight with All-American honors at the 2004 AAU Junior Olympic Games.

Brito, whose trademark is his highly accurate and what coaches describe as a “hard and heavy” shot, started playing roller and ice hockey when he was 14. He played Midget AA for the Junior Gulls his senior year at St. Augustine High School and was named to Team California in 1997.

“When you’re on a new team, you want to make an impression,” Brito said. “The first couple of games we were still getting to know everyone, but (after that) I was feeling more comfortable out there.”

Both San Diego-based players made an impact in the AIHL’s recent Pacific South Division playoffs as the fourth-seeded Ducks upset the top-seeded Irvine Anarchy Black. Gonzalez racked up six goals and 10 points, including one game-winning goal, in five total playoff games while Brito collected four goals and four assists.

The Ducks’ season ended with two narrow setbacks to reigning national champion Huntington Beach in the division finals.

“We were going into the playoffs playing well together, playing good defense,” said Gonzalez, who has an upcoming tryout scheduled for Mexico’s entry in the 2012 FIRS world championships. “Our confidence was up. We felt good.”

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