The Anaheim Jr. Ducks’ Squirt A2 team’s run to a SCAHA championship and coming one step from a CAHA title caught some off guard. The surprised group, however, did not include the team or its coaches.
A group that informally came together for a Memorial Day weekend tournament in 2017 ended up nearly running the table in SCAHA play en route to winning that banner, then went to double overtime before falling in the CAHA State title game.
The seeds for the success were planted at, of all things, a post-tryout pool party for the players and their families.
“People said this would be a middle-of-the pack team,” veteran coach Ren Texeira said. “We didn’t believe that.
“We knew that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. At our first team meeting after tryouts we communicated to everyone that if we work hard, we’ll succeed.”
The Squirt A2s won the SCAHA regular-season title with a 14-2-1 record and 29 points, edging the San Diego Jr. Gulls. The Jr. Ducks, who outscored SCAHA opponents by a cumulative 88-40 during the regular season, captured tournament titles in Colorado and San Diego along the way and set themselves up well for the SCAHA playoffs in March.
“We could not have built this winning culture without good players and great families,” Texeira said. “We had really good parents.”
By the time the SCAHA playoffs began, the team’s goal (emblazoned on the back of their off-ice shirts) of winning California by having everyone pulling on the rope with one goal in mind had become a realistic one.
The Jr. Ducks rolled through the first four games of the SCAHA playoffs in late March by a 19-8 margin, setting up a showdown against the Jr. Gulls for the title. Anaheim played one of its best games of the year for a 2-0 victory.
Earlier this month, the Jr. Ducks then won their first two games at the State tournament in Riverside, beating the Tri-Valley Blue Devils and Santa Clara Blackhawks before running into the Jr. Gulls again. San Diego won the final round-robin game but the teams emerged with the two best records in the division and a rematch for all the marbles was on.
“That was a terrific Jr. Gulls team and one we had battled hard all season,” Texeira said. “We knew the final was going to be a battle royale, and it was.”
The teams battled for nearly five periods, with San Diego scoring in double overtime to win, an outcome that did nothing to diminish the Jr. Ducks’ accomplishments.
“When you look at how this team, how these families, came together, this was a special, special group,” Texeira said. “We had the right group of players, the right players and the right staff.
“I’m very proud of them.”
Team members included: Ethan Barela, Ty Chung, Brady Edmonds, Gavin Iida, Duncan Joiner, Landon Longo, Lance McCloskey-Meier, Breken Northgrave, Savin Sipraseuth, Raidon Snyder, Cameron Tromperia, Cullen Tully, Ryoya Watanabe, Charles Weaver and Alexander Wood.
Texeira was assisted by Justin Longer, Jason Northgrave, Ryan Schlerf, Joseph Tully, Micheal Weaver and Norman West. Kelly Wood and Gordana McCloskey-Meier were team managers.