Defined by resiliency, JSerra Catholic High overcame a series of one-goal deficits Thursday to beat Los Alamitos, 5-4, to win the Junior Varsity Championship of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League.
The Griffins started off the scoring within seconds of the puck drop, but the JSerra Lions answered with a quick goal of their own, establishing a pattern that would continue until the third period when the Lions earned their first lead of the night on goal number four.
With less than three minutes left in the third, the Griffins were down 5-4, and the players celebrated what they thought was a tying goal, but the referee waived it off ruling that the puck did not cross the goal line.
The hard-fought game was nothing less than expected between the season-long rivals, said JSerra Varsity Coach Mike Perkins.
“We have been having great battles with them all season,” said Perkins.
The two teams met three times in the regular season with JSerra getting the best of the series at 2 games to 1.
“I think we have a good group of kids that play for each other,” said Perkins. “They have a tight bond and have fun and work hard as a team.”
JSerra JV head coach Jean Labbe praised the Griffins in their inaugural season in the league.
“Congratulations to Los Alamitos,” he said. “Assistant Coach Jeff Friesen and Dave Karpa did an amazing job this year.”
In its inaugural season, the Griffins team finished in second place with a regular season record of 7-2-3
After leading for much of the championship game, the loss was tough, said Griffins senior forward Tripp Kenmuir.
“We got away from our game a little bit. We did the best we could,” said Kenmuir, who plans to play hockey at Arizona State University next year.
Convinced the disallowed goal was over the goal line, Kenmuir described the season’s end as “heartbreaking.”
Despite the night’s defeat, Kenmur said being able to play hockey for his high school was amazing.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to play this year,” Kenmuir said. “But when I had the opportunity to play for my school, I couldn’t pass it up.”
The Los Alamitos team entered the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League as the 14th team in a league that started in 2008 with just three teams. This season, the league added Los Alamitos, Corona del Mar, Huntington Beach and Corona-Norco teams.
JSerra has been a dominant part of the league with the varsity team as this season’s reigning champs and the JV team making it to the championship game for the second time in three years. The JV Lions completed the regular season with a record of 11-1.