There was a certain level of anxiety among the Newport-Mesa Ice Kings as the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League playoffs began last week.
It was hard for the players to put the memory of the previous postseason behind them. Newport-Mesa had been eliminated in the first round after finishing tied for second in the Junior Varsity Division’s Coast View Conference during the regular season.
The Ice Kings returned to the league’s end-of-year tournament as the top seed after a one-loss campaign. Avoiding an early upset was at the forefront of their minds.
“We used that first-round exit last year just sort of as motivation to come back this year,” Laguna Beach High senior Nicolas Carpino said. “We certainly didn’t want the same thing to happen again.”
Newport-Mesa finished the job this time, defeating Carlsbad Pacific Ridge 4-3 in the championship game at the Rinks Anaheim Ice on Saturday.
“We were really prepared this time, and we were just able to pull off that hard work and play like a team for that first round and just keep going,” Cianfrani said. “It was a really good feeling to make ourselves look better than last year.”
Ice Kings coach Lucas Romero had stated that a goal of the program was to progress to the Varsity Division 3 level next year. After winning a league championship, his players feel that they have earned it.
“I think it was really important for the Ice Kings to prove ourselves in the JV Division before [the team] could move up to the varsity division,” Carpino said. “I think we earned that honor.”
Both Laguna Beach representatives, Carpino and Oliver Russell, are graduating, but Carpino says plenty of talent will be returning.
“There are a lot of good returning players,” he said. “I think that it would be really good to move up to Division 3.”
Among those returners is Laguna Hills’ Aaron Parsons. The Ice Kings’ goalie produced shutouts in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Parsons was the lone goalie on the roster. Cianfrani said the Ice Kings (13-1-3-0) curtailed their style of play to protect their netminder.
“We kind of did everything we could to protect him,” Cianfrani said. “We started a lot of brawls in our crease. We maybe got some dumb penalties because of it, but it was all for the goalie.
“It was more or less worth it just to keep him safe.”
Ethan Westerhout and Aidan Kalinowski attend Newport Harbor, and Jake Simko joined the team from Costa Mesa.
“Being a part of this year’s team was an honor,” Sonenshine said. “What made this year so memorable was our sheer dedication to our ultimate goal of winning through hard practices, extra effort, and dedication to our game plan.
“We executed from the start, and I have not seen in my last three years a squad as ready and able to accomplish anything as this year.”