For a couple of seasons, Newport-Mesa Ice Kings coach Lucas Romero has hoped that his team might get promoted.
A potential move has been up for debate since the Ice Kings began to find themselves among the top teams in the Coast View Conference of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League’s Junior Varsity Division.
Newport-Mesa finished tied for second in its conference in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns, but a single playoff victory in those two seasons did little to strengthen the Ice Kings’ case.
Romero upped the ante for his team this season. After nearly running the table in a one-loss regular season, the Ice Kings coach proclaimed that it is “championship or bust this year.”
Two shutout victories later, the Ice Kings (12-1-3-0) have advanced to their first league championship game in program history. Newport-Mesa will oppose Carlsbad Pacific Ridge (12-2-1-1) in the ADHSHL Junior Varsity Division championship game. The puck drop is at 1 p.m. at the Rinks Anaheim Ice.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” Romero said. “The guys were really excited about it after the win.”
The win firmly puts Newport-Mesa back on the radar as a team that could make the jump.
“I think that we are certainly capable of playing at that [Varsity Division 3] level next year,” Romero said. “I think that it would be a good experience for the guys, and for the younger guys, it would help them improve a bit.”
Edison moved up to Division 1 after winning the league’s Division 3 title the previous year. The Chargers cited a senior-heavy roster for the move, but after losing 12 seniors, there is some question as to whether Edison will move back down.
Although Edison posted just a 2-14-0-1 record, ADHSHL commissioner Matt Blanchart says the Chargers showed enough to stay in Division 1.
“They were pretty much in every game,” he said. “If they had a little bit more offense, they would do a little bit better, I thought.
“[Friday] night, they lost 5-4 [to JSerra], and they had so many close games. I think that the [case] is there for them to stay in Division 1.”
Asked if the league would consider renaming the JV Division, perhaps to Division 4, Blanchart said he liked the idea, but a board meeting will be conducted to assess any needed changes after the season.
In a CIF-sanctioned sport, the first-string team would make up the varsity squad. Newport-Mesa only has one hockey team.
Blanchart added that the movement of teams between divisions is up to the teams themselves, who decide if they are ready to make the leap. It sounds as though it is up to the Ice Kings to call their shot.