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Hilltop, Southwest punch passes to Kiwanis Cup roller hockey playoffs Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 17 2012 05:13 PM

The Don Cerone Memorial/Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs face off this coming Tuesday at Skate San Diego in National City and both the Hilltop Lancers and Southwest Raiders assured themselves participant passes by wrapping up league championship titles this past week.

Southwest, enjoying a record-breaking season, captured its season series against the Mar Vista Mariners three games to one by recording a 6-2 victory on Thursday to sew up this year’s South Bay League championship title.

Hilltop secured the Mesa League championship title with a climactic 6-5 win against the Otay Ranch Mustangs on Monday. The Lancers defeated the Mustangs in the teams’ final two of three meetings this season to reign alone atop the standings.

“The rubber match was a very good game,” Hilltop coach Dan Vaccaro said. “We had a practice the previous Saturday and tried to duplicate some of the things we thought we would do. I think that helped us in the game.”

The Lancers finished 7-2 in league play, placing one game ahead of runner-up Otay Ranch (6-3 in league). The teams entered Monday’s game tied for the league lead following Eastlake’s 5-3 upset victory over the Lancers the previous week.

The Titans, who finished 4-5 in league play, also recorded an upset win against the Mustangs during the season. However, Eastlake was taken out of championship contention following an upset 7-6 loss administered by the cellar-dwelling Bonita Vista Barons, also on Monday.

In Monday’s marquee contest, the Lancers skated to an early 3-1 lead only to have Otay Ranch battle back to go on top, 4-3, at the end of the second period. Hilltop closed out the exciting back-and-forth contest with three of the game’s final four goals, scoring three in succession to lead 6-4 with four minutes left in the game.

Team scoring leader George Godinez paced Hilltop in the game with five goals and one assist while Alfonso Arreguin contributed a goal and assist and Jeremiah Schultz collected a pair of assists.

Cole Beatie, assisted by super frosh Devyn Taras, narrowed the score to 6-5 on a goal with 2:15 to play. However, the Mustangs could not manage to tie the game to send it to overtime in the final frantic minutes.

Beatie finished the game with three goals and one assist while Taras notched a goal and three assists. Both players finished one-team in team scoring. Matt Mendez rounded out Otay Ranch’s scoring with a  goal and assist.

Mar Vista, meanwhile, was in a must-win situation on Thursday to force a co-championship with a victory in its final regular season game. The Mariners captured the teams’ second match-up this season, 4-3, to avenge a 6-2 first-round loss to the Raiders. However, Southwest broke the deadlock atop the league standings with a 9-1 victory in the teams’ third meeting.

The fourth match-up between the South Bay League rivals was decided early on as the Raiders broke out to a 4-0 lead on two goals by Angel Rocha and single tallies by Steven Regaliza and Martin Whitfield.

Mar Vista’s Hunter Calef, who won the CIF-Metro Conference scoring title with 106 points, finally beat Southwest netminder Sean Garcia with 1:21 elapsed in the second period. But the Raiders failed to lose a step by going up, 5-1, on Rocha’s hat trick goal five minutes later.

Angel Alamillo scored Southwest’s final goal. He also finished the game with a pair of assists, as did Whitfield.

The Raiders clinched the league title with a resounding 15-1 record; the Mariners finished 14-2 in league play.

Garcia was among Southwest’s heroes this season. He started playing the goaltender position two years ago with no prior experience and finished as the top netminder in the league this season, holding high-powered Mar Vista to nine goals in four meetings.

“It feels good,” Garcia said of the team’s history-making league championship. “It’s due to hard work. We worked well together as a team.”

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