The recent Arctic air mass that passed over the region dropped nighttime temperatures near freezing in many areas of San Diego County, the South Bay included. In the process, the frigid temperatures created something rather unique: a real sense of “hockey weather” at Castle Park High School’s outdoor rink.
“This is the closest to hockey weather that you’re going to get in Chula Vista,” said Bonita Vista coach Keith Quigley, who grew up in New York and Massachusetts.
Hilltop coach Dan Vaccaro, a New York native, concurred.
“Growing up we played on frozen outdoor rinks, it was ice, of course. We’d have night games and the temperature would be in the 30s, but we had fun.”
It’s been fun at the Castle Park rink despite the cold temperatures that settle in after sundown.
In fact, Vaccaro dubbed a recent quadruple-header at the rink the “Winter Classic” in reference to the cancelled NHL outdoor showcase game. The four games took place Jan. 10 amid a thermometer plunging into the 50s and winds gusting up to 38 mph.
The temperature at the start of Monday’s double-header was 52 degrees and 46 at the end.
“It was exciting to play in the cold weather,” said Sweetwater’s Adrian Guerrero.
“It was a rush,” Chula Vista’s Morgan Spangler interjected.
“I was just glad I brought my gloves,” referee Johnny Noris added.
The four games on Jan. 10 all featured non-league match-ups that added to spectator appeal.
Eastlake’s Aaron Mayer moved into sole possession of the CIF-Metro Conference scoring lead with 43 points (26 goals, 17 assists) by collecting 11 points on six goals and five assists in Eastlake’s 13-0 win over Mar Vista.
Zack Ziccardi (three goals, one assist) and Jacky Ponce (two goals, two assists) both had notable performances for the Titans, who improved to 5-2 overall. Also for Eastlake, Zach Landry had one goal and one assist while Mike Mechling scored once and Zane White was credited with one assist.
Mar Vista dropped to 1-5.
The most intriguing match-up featured Otay Ranch, the Sweetwater district’s top team thus far, against the St. Augustine Saints, who coach Christian Da Luz had much promise for this season despite the team’s 1-6-1 start.
Otay Ranch put up a strong effort but came up short 6-2 in a game much closer than the final score indicated. St. Augustine rolled out to a 3-0 first period lead but the Mustangs chipped away with two second-period goals (both by Cole Beatie) to narrow the score to 4-2.
The Saints recorded two late tallies with 2:25 and 0:34 to play to generate some much-needed breathing room.
The loss was the first of the season for Otay Ranch after a 6-0 start.
St. Augustine received goals from six players: Nate Pascual, Robbie Kielty, Luke Totah, Nick Heid, Ian Harkness and Greg Heid. Pascaul led St. Augustine with three points by adding a pair of assists.
The closest game of the wintry quadruple-header turned out to be a defensive chess match between the Hilltop Lancers of the Mesa League and the Southwest Raiders of the South Bay League.
The game was scoreless until Hilltop’s Nick Tesner scored with 3:18 left in the second period off a face-off to the right of the Southwest net. The Raiders tied the game at a goal apiece with three minutes gone in the third period as Angel Rocha notched his conference-leading 28th goal of the season, assisted by Henry Avalos.
The game went into a five-minute sudden-death overtime period and appeared poised to end in a tie until a freak play handed Hilltop a 2-1 win on a buzzer-beater.
Hilltop’s George Godinez, positioned near the face-off circle to the left of the Southwest net, attempted to pass through a maze of skates to Tesner at the far post for a potential tap-in. Southwest netminder Jose Andrade attempted to break up the play by poking his stick at the puck. However, instead of deflecting the puck out of harm’s way, the puck bounced backward off the goaltender’s stick into the net in a rather bizarre ending.
As the Lancers celebrated giddily at center court, a quick look down the floor revealed the Raiders huddled around their net, with disappointment etched on their faces as an unkind payout for an unlucky bounce.
The effort was easily Southwest’s best of the season.
“Any overtime loss is a tough loss,” Southwest coach Jerry Nestlerode conceded. “But it was a good game between two quality teams, with good sportsmanship by both teams. Hilltop pulled it out this time; we’ll try next time.”
The Lancers (1-3 in Mesa League) improved to 3-3; the Raiders (4-0 in South Bay League) saw their record dip to 4-2.
“We had to win — I told my boys not to take this team lightly,” Hilltop’s Vaccaro said. “I have a lot of respect for Southwest’s coach and what he’s done there. They have a good team. For us, this win is going to lift our spirits.”
In the nightcap of the four-game “chiller,” Sweetwater’s Red Devils rolled to a 5-0 lead in the first period and coasted to an 11-0 win over the Bonita Vista Barons.
Adrian Guerrero led Sweetwater (4-2 overall) with five goals and two assists while Mauricio Estrada was credited with three goals and two assists and Ricky Lawson had one goal and two assists.
The Barons dropped to 1-5.
Monday morning’s temperature read 37 degrees, the coldest to that point in 2013. Sweetwater’s skaters remained hot, however, with a 10-0 South Bay League victory against the Chula Vista Spartans later that evening.
Estrada keyed the Devils with five goals while Lawson and Guerrero each posted two goals and two assists.
In Monday’s opener, the West Hills Wolf Pack proved they stand a breed apart after recording a 17-0 shutout win over Eastlake, one of the strongest of the conference’s nine South County teams.
Brad Majeski (six goals, one assist) and David Baldwin (three goals, four assists) led the Wolf Pack with seven points each while Ryan Vanoni collected six points (two goals, four assists).
West Hills coach Steve Baldwin feels his team — along with five others — is a contender to win this year’s Kiwanis Cup championship title. “I feel that any one of six teams — four from the North County League and two from the Central League — can win CIF this year,” Baldwin said after Monday’s game. “I don’t think you could say that last year or the year before.”
The Wolf Pack (5-3-1 overall, 3-1-1 in league play) dropped a two-goal non-league decision to the No. 1-ranked Rancho Bernardo Broncos earlier this season. The Broncos improved to 11-0 after Wednesday’s 4-0 North County League victory against the Westview Wolverines at the Escondido Sports Center.
Lancers deliver Mesa League shocker
Hilltop used the momentum of its Jan. 10 overtime victory against Southwest to tighten up the Mesa League standings following Tuesday’s 7-0 win over the Otay Ranch Mustangs, previously undefeated in league play. The Lancer win dropped the Mustangs into a first place tie with the Eastlake Titans, both with 4-1 league records, with Hilltop lurking two games behind with a 2-3 league record. George Godinez led the Lancers (4-3 overall) with five goals, including one on a rare 140-foot shot, while Nick Tesner also fired in a 100-footer on the fly. HHS goaltender Kevin Kananu enjoyed the best game of his two-year varsity career with 30 saves.
“We’ve been at this for years but it does take some time to figure out exactly what positions are the strongest,” Lancer head coach Dan Vaccaro said. “Defense is obviously more of a strength for us this year and you can’t overlook that in important games. We’ll play defense first and accept what we can get on offense as the game goes on. It sure worked for us tonight.”
Otay Ranch, which was missing offensive sparkplug Cole Beatie due to prior commitments, will be looking to break the deadlock atop the Mesa League standings when they engage Eastlake in what now becomes the teams’ most important match-up on the season Jan. 22 at CPHS.
Hilltop, meanwhile, has one more go-around with both the Mustangs and Titans. With his five goals on Tuesday, Godinez hiked his season output to 28 goals and 37 points — third best in the conference. Tesner was credited with one goal and one assist in the win over Otay Ranch while Richard Pol scored once and Phil Funes picked up two assists. Hilltop set the tone in the game by taking a 4-0 first period lead.
The loss was the second consecutive for the Mustangs after a 6-0 start.
Eastlake 14, Bonita Vista 0
Eastlake’s Aaron Mayer may not smile for photographs but he remains picture-perfect on the playing court. Mayer racked up five goals and 11 points to extend his conference scoring lead to 54 points (31 goals, 23 assists). Teammates Mike Mechling and Sam Bawden both contributed three goals and one assist in the Titans’ 14-0 Mesa League win over the Barons on Tuesday. Nick Rodriguez was credited with a goal and assist while Nick Ziccardi was credited with one goal for Eastlake, which improved to 6-3 overall.