Orange Lutheran is king of Trinity League club hockey, while Santa Margarita is coming on strong

By Richard Dunn     12/17/2015

It is difficult to imagine that ice hockey is only considered a club sport within Trinity League high schools, because few sports are as hard-hitting, fast-paced and filled with drama as the unabashed sounds and sensations of the action at Anaheim Ice.

While the homes of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center and Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center are within a fairly simple commute for most Trinity League families, some of the most exciting ice hockey is happening right here in our backyard.

Check it out. You will also find ticket prices a lot more affordable than NHL games, and the on-ice thrills will be just as entertaining.

Back in the day there were ski and snowboard clubs on high school campuses, but these days ice hockey is the only prominent winter sports club among Trinity League schools, aside from Mater Dei’s ice skating club.

Trumpeting the way for Trinity League ice hockey is Orange Lutheran, the defending state and Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League champions. Mater Dei, JSerra, Santa Margarita and Servite also have ice hockey teams that compete in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League (ADHSHL).

Orange Lutheran defeated Santa Margarita 3-1 in the championship game of the California Amateur Hockey Association State Playoffs last season, the Lancers’ first state title in the five-year history of the program. JSerra beat Orange Lutheran in the 2014 state championship game.

In 2015-16, a season that began in September and will conclude in February, the Lancers are back on top with a 3-0 mark in the Trinity League, defeating JSerra twice and earning a 1-0 shootout victory over Santa Margarita.

The Lancers, who finished 40-7-2 last season and also appeared in the U.S. Hockey Nationals for the second consecutive year, will return to Trinity League action against JSerra at noon Jan. 2 at Anaheim Ice.

But the five-year path to a state championship wasn’t easy for the Lancers.

“Those first years were rough,” says Orange Lutheran coach Dan Adams, who has been with the program since its inception as an assistant coach and replaced Jason Marshall as head coach following Marshall’s resignation last year. “We started with 10 players, and only half knew how to play hockey. We won one game that first [varsity] year, but everybody was still excited because we had hockey at OLu.”

In last season’s California Amateur Hockey Association State Playoffs, the Lancers were forced to rally after dropping their opening game to Santa Margarita, rising through the loser’s bracket and beating Bellarmine of San Jose and JSerra to reach a second straight final.

Behind goals within 30 seconds of each other in the second period, Jakob Nelson and Jacob Furry sparked the Lancers in last season’s championship game, while Parker Brakebill scored a goal in the third. Orange Lutheran goaltender A.J. Frosh played well in the net, allowing only one goal when Santa Margarita’s Tyler Gebauer scored on a power play. Orange Lutheran had been playing without Jacob Heller (broken arm in a game), the ADHSHL’s leading scorer.

With the 2014-15 season in the books, the Orange Lutheran Division 1 ice hockey machine started strong this season, going 5-0 in the Orange County Labor Day Tournament, beating league rival JSerra 3-1 in the championship game. Orange Lutheran’s Division 3 team also won its bracket, giving the Lancers two titles in one tournament.

“It’s always good for the team’s confidence to have a solid start to the season,” Adams says. “It was really just a warm-up to see how everyone plays together and to get the new kids acclimated to our style of play, but every game is important and we plan to win. So it was nice to go 5-0.”

Orange Lutheran outscored its opponents in the tournament 22-6 in its five games, including a 9-3 win over the Los Angeles Jr. Kings.

“The wins were all-around group efforts,” Adams says. “We have a lot of areas to work on, but I was impressed with everyone’s performance, especially this early. Although the guys have been working out all summer, we only started skating as a group a month ago.”

In December, the Lancers improved to 10-3-1 overall, along with their 3-0 Trinity League record.

Santa Margarita is expected to push the Lancers, based on the Eagles’ Division 1 JSerra Thanksgiving Tournament championship. The Eagles beat Canada’s Vincent Massey in a shootout in the final, 4-3. Margarita’s Blake Howard delivered a dominant performance, beginning with a powerful wrist shot that found the back of the net at the 6:10 mark of the opening period to score the title game’s first goal, assisted by Jett Shibata, and the Eagles never looked back.