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High School hockey heads to postseason

Defending champion Hart High knocked off in final game of season

Posted: May 11, 2009 10:58 p.m.
Updated: May 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

As the regular season of the Valencia Ice Station High School Hockey season comes to a close, the four local club teams will head into the first round of postseason play on Monday with very different perspectives.

The favorite is top-ranked and undefeated West Valley (Simi and San Fernando Valleys), who edged fellow undefeated team and defending champion Hart High 6-4 on Monday in comeback fashon.

Hart took a 3-1 lead in the second period behind goals from Kyle Bowen, Mark Palacios and Justin Wilmers, but West Valley (8-0-1) responded with two quick goals to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the final break.

West Valley then responded with two goals to begin the third period, when Wilmers struck again to cut the lead to 5-4 with 4:31 remaining.

With time running down and Hart pressing, West Valley’s Josh Batch added and empty-net goal to seal the victory.

“We knew going in that this would be the big game,” said West Valley head coach Chris Hartly. “We were focused and they wanted to show everyone they would be on top.”

Hart head coach Pat Nowak, although disappointed with the loss, saw a silver lining heading into the playoffs potentially tied for second place with Burbank (7-1-1) who plays their final game Friday.

“(The loss) definitely motivates us,” Nowak said. “They know what they have to do to get to the finals. They can’t take days off, because we still have to get to the finals. This was a wake-up call.”

Hart (8-1-1), led by its top line of Bowen, Palacios and Wilmers, who are all in the top six in scoring, should avoid West Valley until a potential championship-game matchup.

On the other end of the spectrum is Canyon, who has stuggled the most in league and has been outscored 82-14 en route to a winless record (0-9). Although the season has been rough for Canyon, head coach Chris Duncan found optimisim in the Cowboys’ 7-2 loss to Saugus on Monday. Canyon and Saugus were tied 1-1 heading into the second quarter, when the Cowboys scored four unanswered goals, with two coming from Dakota Cigrang.

“We played a much better game than we have been playing,” Duncan said. “We have a lot of young kids; kids who have never played travel hockey. It’s about experience. Today I finally saw some confidence. It’s a rebuilding year, I think, but all-in-all we’re getting better.”

Saugus (4-4-2) will be the fourth seed entering the playoffs and will likely face Bakersfield (3-6).

Saugus head coach Mathew Kopp feels that if the Centurions stick to fundamentals, they’re playoff run will not be cut short.

“As long as we play well, pass the puck and stay out of the penalty box, we’ll be good,” Kopp said.
Kopp stessed the Centurions’ need for senior forward Todd Hopkins to be on his game. Hopkins leads Saugus with 10 goals, good for sixth in the league,

“He is the key ingredient,” Kopp said. “He’s stepped up all year.”

Valencia, like Canyon, limps into the playoffs.

The Vikings (2-7-1) are winless in their last four games and will head to the postseason as the seventh seed.

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