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Then and now: Eastlake roller hockey team gets major make-over Phillip Brents | Fri, Feb 03 2012 05:10 PM

It might be incorrect to say that the Eastlake Titans roller hockey team has experienced a lack of offensive production during the 2011-12 season. The Titans do have an offense — it’s just exceedingly young this season, braced by three freshman scorers.

In retrospect, what the three frosh standouts have managed to produce on the score sheet might be what is expected from players who lack the physical size and speed of players two and three years older than themselves, according to EHS head coach Ron Cole.

“I have to give them the most improved in the league,” Cole said. “They’ve improved 27 steps. This vast improvement has made us more competitive. Will this vast improvement make us league champions? I don’t know. But I have to give credit to my team for working hard to improve.”

What no one can deny is that the Titans are braced this season by the top goaltender among the CIF-Metro Conference’s South County teams: senior Darius Newhall.

Newhall made 37 saves in Eastlake’s 4-3 upset victory against the Otay Ranch Mustangs on Jan. 18 to draw the Titans into a three-way tie for first place in the Mesa League standings alongside the Mustangs and Hilltop Lancers, each with 2-1 league records.

Otay Ranch outshot Eastlake 40-11 in that game. While Newhall was busying plugging the dike, the Titans’ “freshman line” did its best to exploit its opportunities.

Freshman Aaron Meyer led the victors with two goals and one assist while fellow ninth-graders Sam Bawden and Mike Mechling were each credited with one assist.

Senior Aric Alvarez scored two goals, including the game-winner that was assisted by Meyer.

Eastlake improved to 3-2 in league play, 5-8 overall, following Monday’s 9-2 Mesa League victory against Bonita Vista (0-5, 1-11).

Zac Zasueta led the Titans with two goals and two assists while Marshall Bawden (Sam’s older brother) collected two goals and one assist to match that of his younger sibling; Alvarez scored once. Nic Rodriguez contributed three assists while Brett Garrett was credited with one assist.

Following Monday’s victory, Meyer led Eastlake in season scoring with 17 goals and 21 points, followed by the younger Bawden with 10 goals and 20 points. Mechling ranked third in team scoring with nine goals and 15 points.

Eastlake’s record has obviously been influenced by the large turnover in its roster from the last two seasons, particularly last season.

Justin White and Dante Patron, both 2010 EHS grads, have continued their hockey careers at a higher level. White is leading Santa Barbara City College’s gold team in scoring in the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League while Patron is among the scoring leaders on the Long Beach Bombers in the Western States Hockey League, the western region’s Junior A Tier III ice hockey circuit.

Jace White, who tied for the CIF-Metro Conference scoring lead last season, is now attending San Jose State University and will play for the Spartans’ lacrosse team this spring. He also plans to play ice hockey at SJSU.

Sophomore Jaden White continues the family’s link to the EHS roller hockey team and wears No. 26 — Jace White’s former uniform number.

New wave
Meyer, Bawden and Mechling all have played competitive ice hockey for half their lives and it’s apparent watching them on the inline playing court.

Meyer is the fearless one. The other two also are fired by competition.

“It was a little intimidating starting out since everybody was a lot bigger and faster-paced than us,” admitted Mechling, whose father Jeff coached Eastlake from 2000-06.

One rub of making the jump to high school roller hockey is that the Titans’ complement of talented ice hockey players is no longer confined to a specific age-group level (often defined by birth year) but must compete alongside players much more physically developed.

“We’ve had to skate a lot harder and play smarter,” the younger Mechling said.

But sports remains cyclic, and the proverb that states what goes around eventually will come around is quite appropriate here.

That is what has Cole excited about the Titans’ future.

“If everyone continues how it’s been going, I see them on the precipice of many championship teams,” the EHS coach said. “If all these kids stick with it, watch out because they’re going to make some noise in the next two to three years.”

Face-offs

Justin White finished the first semester with 15 goals and 21 points for SBCC — more than double the point total of the player next in line on the team.

Patron had accumulated eight goals and 16 points in 21 games this season for the Bombers. His best offensive showing thus far came Jan. 6 against the Dallas Snipers when he collected two goals and one assist in a 10-5 win.

Justin White, Jace White and Patron polished off their high school careers with a Western Inline Hockey Association championship title last June with the Tour Raw Steel Midget Division team before competing in the AAU Junior Olympic Games the following month in Huntington Beach, finishing second in the 18U-A Division.
Jace White ranks as Eastlake’s all-time regular season scoring leader with 227 points while older brother Justin’s is the all-time top goalscorer (140).

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