The Capo Coyotes hockey team qualified for the United States National Hockey Championships last season.
It seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. Then life changed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring. Nationals have been canceled.
Sometimes life offers a second chance. The Capo Coyotes qualified for the national championships again this season. They took advantage of the second chance to advance to the final in Omaha, Neb.
They lost to their hometown Omaha Junior Lancers 5-4 in overtime in the USA Hockey Division 2 Championship game on April 19.
A disappointing finish, yes. But what a ride …
“It was great,” said team captain Luke Ossola, senior at Aliso Niguel. “I was part of this team during the four years of my high school studies. We were disappointed that we couldn’t go last year because it was our first time qualifying for the national championships, but COVID did happen.
The Capo Coyotes play in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League. Several schools in Orange County have their own teams, including JSerra, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita, who have won championships at the national and national levels. The Capistrano Coyotes are made up of players from several schools, including Aliso Niguel, Capistrano Valley, Dana Hills, San Clemente, San Juan Hills and Tesoro, who do not have their own squads.
The Coyotes, who began operations in the 2013-14 season, won the California Amateur Hockey Association Division 2 State Championships this season and throughout the 2019-20 season. Capo has teams in ADHSL Division 1, Division 3 and in its junior varsity circuit. The Coyotes Division 1 team is classified as a Division 2 team for National and National competitions.
Jean Labbe, the organization’s leader as head coach and director of coaches, credited the commitment of the Division 1 players and their determination to win the second state title and advance to the national final .
“We’ve had great leadership this year from our captains (Ossola and Dana Hills senior Joe Pratt),” said Labbe. “They did a great job keeping the kids involved and interested. Because of COVID, the kids couldn’t play games for a while and they started to lose focus, unsure whether the season was going to happen or not.
The team competed in a tournament in Phoenix in February and the ADHSHL hosted a tournament in Las Vegas in March. And from there, as Labbé said, “the hearts of the children were back.”
Ossola, who scored the overtime goal that gave the Coyotes a quarter-final victory at the national championships, said teams’ strategy could differ from opponent to opponent. But above all, they like to attack.
“We start games by bringing the puck into the other team’s zone early,” he said. “Sometimes we’re going to put up an insane amount of punches.”
Capo, with Matt Beaty as coach in domestic and domestic tournaments, had a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period of the league game against Omaha.
“We were ripping the puck, hitting a deep and forward bodycheck and working our butt,” said Ossola.
Omaha got hot, caught up and beat Capo.
“I’ve never seen us play a better game,” said Ossola. “Omaha was an amazing team, give them that. We weren’t happy with that lead, it’s just that the other team got the jets going. ”
Winning or losing, it was a great experience that Ossola and his teammates doubted to live.
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• Football coach openings also exist at Bolsa Grande, Buena Park, Canyon, Dana Hills (Phil Skinner announced his resignation Thursday) Northwood, Santiago (Brandon Croft resigned Wednesday) and the University.
• JSerra senior shortstop Cody Schrier has reached base safely in 37 straight games. He signed with UCLA and is an MLB prospect project.
• Orange Lutheran senior shortstop Justin DeCriscio, a University of San Diego signing, was 4 for 5 with two RBIs and two interceptions in the La Mirada Lancers double sweep on Saturday.
• Sonora senior goalie Daniel Esparza became the leading scoring leader of the school’s men’s basketball career on Wednesday when he scored 33 points in the Raiders’ 61-52 win over Troy. Josh Rodriguez had held the record. Esparza signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
• The El Dorado boys’ basketball team has seven players who play another sport at the same time. Jacob Kang plays two other sports, golf and volleyball.
• The CIF State Federated Council has approved the proposal which gives the joy of competition an exemption one Sunday per year from the CIF rule which prohibits competition on Sundays. The National Joys Championships have their last round on Sunday.
• Orange Lutheran has announced that Jason Hitchens is their track coach. It’s not the Jason Hitchens who coached football in Corona del Mar, El Modena, St. Margaret’s and more recently Katella. This Jason Hitchens was a track and field coach at West Torrance High, as well as at Biola and Vanguard universities.