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'Holiday Classic' sends local roller hockey teams into winter break on a festive note Phillip Brents | Tue, Dec 24 2013 02:40 PM

The NHL’s Winter Classic is scheduled Jan. 1, with a crowd of 100,000 expected to take in the outdoor match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan’s football stadium.

The annual spectacle expects to be frosty — and exciting — for ice hockey fans. The first game in 2008 attracted 71,217 fans to Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL Buffalo Bills.

Closer to home, the CIF-Metro Conference’s collection of South County roller hockey teams celebrated the holiday spirit with a special-Christmas themed skate Dec. 20 at the Castle Park High School rink.

Three regularly scheduled games were followed by a youth sneaker hockey exhibition game put on by PUCKidz, a youth sports development organization managed by Bonita Vista High School roller hockey and Olympian High School boys lacrosse coach Keith Quigley. An open skate for players topped off the festivities as the nighttime temperature dropped, leaving participants seeing their own breath.

The event featured a Christmas tree on the rink (for the holiday skate) and a special appearance by Santa (yours truly).

Before each game, two players from each team were recognized for their hard work. It was all in what Southwest coach Jerry Nestlerode termed “holiday spirit of giving" for the players who have "given everything they've got” for their respective hockey teams.

Those players included Sergio Contreras from Chula Vista High School, Julian De Alba from Castle Park High School, Adrian Contreras from Mar Vista High School, Armando Rivera from Sweetwater High School, Anthony Lopez from Hilltop High School and Angel Bonilla from Southwest High School.

Center ice

The three games were closely fought and entertaining for fans. Castle Park won the opener, 7-0, through the Trojans led only 2-0 after the first period and finally pulled away in the closing minutes.

It was the second victory of the season for Castle Park after facing off the campaign with four narrow setbacks. Nacho Mireles led the Trojans with two goals and one assist while teammates Marvin Cirignano
 scored twice and Miguel Flores, Issac Montero and Tavion Black each scored one goal.

In the second game, Mar Vista shaded Sweetwater, 8-2, but again, the teams were locked into a hotly contested match-up until the Mariners propped up their lead with three third-period goals.

Mar Vista goals came off the sticks of Evan Lovstrom, Cindy Moeller, Austin Hoffman and Eloy Rodriguez. Hoffman finished the game with four goals while Rodriguez scored twice.

Ulises Mireles scored both Red Devil goals.

The final game of the night was the best, with Hilltop and Southwest renewing a rivalry that started in earnest last season with two exciting non-league pairings between the teams.

Last Friday’s non-league contest only solidified that newly-found rivalry.

The defending South Bay League champion Raiders opened up a 2-0 first period lead but the Lancers responded with two goals of their own in the second period to tie up the fast-paced, back-and-forth game.

Angel Rocha had both early Southwest goals and Phillip Fune and Pablo Corona answered back for Hilltop.

It appeared the game might be headed for sudden-victory overtime until the Raiders struck for the game-winner with 3:27 to play in the third period. Rocha drew the assist on the game-winning goal.

But that go-ahead goal only seem to intensify the Lancers’ resolve and Hilltop finished the final minutes of the game with a flurry of shots – and chances – in front of the Raider net. The Lancers even cleared away a shot headed for the empty net after pulling their goaltender for an extra attacker to stay in the game.
But Southwest netminder Jose Andrade matched the Lancers’ intensity with several big stops to enable his team to skate off the floor with a hard-earned 3-2 victory.

It was clearly the best effort this season by Hilltop.

Southwest’s Henry Avalos called the game “one of the most challenging we’ve had so far.”

If anything, it was a moral victory for the Lancers, who were on the receiving end of an 18-1 pummeling by Eastlake on Dec. 11.

“We started with a lot of new players but they’re getting more playing time and getting better,” Hilltop’s Andrew Tesner said.

Several high school players stayed to assist with the youth sneaker hockey game, which was touted as featuring the “next generation of Metro Conference” playing talent.

Quigley, last season’s Mesa League Coach of the Year, had the youngsters go through a series of conditioning and skill drills before unleashing them on the floor for a half-court exhibition game that drew rousing cheers from onlookers.

The holiday skate untied many of the players from the preceding games who remained. It was a fun, festive way to wrap up the opening three weeks of competition at the CPHS rink. Teams return to action Jan. 13.

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