Santa Margarita Catholic High School won its second consecutive USA Hockey Youth Nationals championship on April 1, and its roster learned a valuable life lesson in the process.
The Eagles’ lineup featured a significant amount of turnover from last season’s championship squad, and it didn’t enjoy some of the regular-season or CAHA State success that its predecessor did.
““We were a younger team,” Eagles coach Craig Johnson said of his Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League entry. “Last year, we rolled through States and the ADHSHL. This year, a lot of people doubted us. We lost at States to JSerra although we played well and controlled the play, outshooting them 32-12.”
“For the kids to come out on top, it goes to show that if you believe in yourself and keep working, anything can happen, you can have success.”
Santa Margarita defeated Edina (Minn.) Junior Gold A, 4-1, in the championship game at Cleveland.
Joshua Hyden scored the Eagles’ first three goals, and Brendan Williams added a shorthanded goal and two assists. Co-captain Joey Felicicchia chipped two assists. Brandon Yamasaki made 25 saves.
The national title was the Eagles’ third in six years. In addition to the 2018 and 2013 championships, they have been national runner-up twice (2015, 2017) and finished third in 2011.
The irony of the championship game victory was the Eagles had lost to Edina in round-robin play, 2-1.
“I remember seeing Edina during the year at a showcase in Minnesota and thinking they were really good, then they landed in our group. We had a tough draw, which helped us,” said Johnson, who’s also the Jr. Ducks’ director of coaches. “I though we showed we could compete with them (in first game). The boys got a little confidence. We tied them 1-1 then they scored with 10 minutes left in the third.”
The Eagles carried that confidence into the final.
“We got them again in the championship, but we started slow,” Johnson said. “Then we competed harder and moved our feet more, executed better.
“The boys played unbelievable. In the championship game, we limited their chances, we bought into playing defensive hockey. We created chances through forechecks and winning our battles.
“It was nice to have a cushion at the end. Last year was so nerve-wracking, having to go end-to-end to score with 2 seconds left.”
The Eagles reached the championship game by beating Bishop O’Connell, 6-2, in the quarterfinals and Rustin Varsity, 6-3, in the semifinals.
Hyden-Williams-Felicicchia line was dominant, and the Eagles’ defense played well all tournament. The Eagles allowed just 11 goals in six games.
Hyden’s nine goals were the second most in the tournament, while Williams’ five tied for fourth most. Each had 13 points, tied for second most in the tournament. Yamasaki’s five wins were the most, and Felicicchia’s eight points were tied for sixth most.
The Eagles’ roster also included: goalie Jacob Rossi; defensemen Axel Carlberg, Aidan Casey, Aiden Cressy, Will Howhannesian, Lucas Marshall, Brian Mathis, Jerrett Overland, Grafton Platt III, Colin Sekerka, Kristian Seppanen and Hunter Voyles; and forwards Michael Allee, Daniel Doss, Nicholas Gluck, Marcus Kim, Taylor Loh, Ryan Riddlesperger, Maxwell Sullivan and Rocco Zimmerman.
“This team did all the little things really well,” Johnson said. “Sometimes those little things add up.”
In Santa Margarita’s case they added up to another banner.
ADHSHL teams: JSerra was the ADHSHL’s other Division I representative, and it went 1-2 at Nationals, defeating the Gleneig Gladiators, 5-4. Conor Clarke led the team with three points, including two goals. JSerra won the CAHA State title as well as the ADHSHL playoff title.
In Division II, St. John Bosco went 1-2, defeating Zionsville Hockey Club, 7-3. Preston Park scored eight points (four goals) and Dante Terremani added six points.