The Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League has had many successful seasons over the years, and the 2019-2020 season was just another feather in the cap. The previous season had seen the JSerra Lions, Capistrano United Coyotes, and Irvine United Warriors all hoist cups in the Varsity Divisions, but it was apparent from day one that this year, things might be different. One of the biggest changes was division placement, as both Capistrano United and the Pacific Ridge Firebirds (who played in the Division 2 Championship a year ago) had made the jump to Division 1. While some may have speculated that the teams would struggle to move up, both teams proved that they were up to the task. Both finished the season with winning records heading into the playoffs (finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the Division standings during the regular season), setting them up for favorable postseason matchups.
The Santa Margarita Eagles were coming off back-to-back CAHA State Championships, with their eyes on revenge after falling to the JSerra Lions in the 2019 Schulman Cup Final. Led by Aidan Casey (15 Goals in 18 Games in the regular season), the Eagles once again soared to success, finishing in second place by winning 13 of 18 games. The Orange Lutheran Lancers proved to be the best team in the regular season, coming out victorious in 16 of their 18 games. Jackson Ferry led not only the team, but also the entire division with 26 goals, and he joined teammates Ethan Hirst, Thomas Stift, and Josh Renton in the top four in assists in the division. A super-charged Lancers team did not fall in regulation until dropping their season finale to Bellarmine by the score of 2-1. In the postseason, it was Pacific Ridge and the St. Mary’s Rams that surged all the way through to the Schulman Cup Final, guaranteeing the first ever non-Orange County Division 1 Champion in the history of the ADHSHL. In the end, it was the Firebirds who lifted the Shulman Cup and were crowned the champions after falling short against Capistrano United in the H&S Ventures Cup just one year before. In the losing effort, goaltender Tobias Bell stopped 42 of 46 shots he faced, but Patrick O’Donnell only let one of 20 Rams’ shots get by in his team’s win. O’Donnell, along with fellow seniors Daniel Parizek, Tyler Sheridan, Clayton Moore, Kento Mencel, and Ethan Kuhrt left the ADHSHL on top, having won the Division 1 Championship in their final eligible year of play. With a multitude of seniors having graduated, Pacific Ridge will look for new leaders to step up to defend their Shulman Cup title in 2020-2021.
There was no lack of excitement in the other Varsity divisions during 2019-2020. A league-leading 35 goals were scored by Placentia-Yorba Linda’s Jason Stefanek, though the Panthers found themselves wrapping up the regular season as the five-seed headed to the Division 3 playoffs. Hudson Lammatao led Division 2 with 28 goals, helping his North County Sea Dogs finish with a winning record, wrapping up 2019-2020 with a 9-7-1-1 (W-L-OTW-OTL) record.
The H&S Ventures Cup Final (Division 2) saw the St. John Bosco Braves capture their second title in four seasons, knocking off the top-seeded Beckman Patriots (now known as Tustin United beginning in 2020-2021) by a score of 3-0. Emmett Croteau stopped all 23 shots he saw, and three different Braves found the back of the net in the victory. Danny Tasigeorgos did all he could, turning away 28 of 33 in the losing effort. Division 3 wrapped up with the Servite Friars taking on Capistrano United, who feature two Varsity teams. Both programs had reached division finals before, with the Coyotes reaching two separate finals the previous season (Division 2 champions, Junior Varsity Harbor Division runners-up) and Servite falling to JSerra in the first ever ADHSHL Junior Varsity Chapionship Game in 2011. Needless to say, the Friars were eager to finally call themselves Champions. Goaltender Aidan Maltby rose to the challenge, stopping all 30 shots that came his way, and the Friars became Varsity champions for the first time in program history, hoisting the Commissioner’s Cup. Dean Praet and Cyprien Peacock found the back of the net in the 2-0 shutout, ending the longest championship drought in ADHSHL History.
For the third year in a row, the ADHSHL Vegas Showcase was a fan and player favorite, as the league headed back to the desert for the third year in the Winter. The league welcomed the Faith Lutheran Crusaders to participate, bringing the first ever high school hockey team in Nevada with a school affiliation into the fray. After a successful showing in the showcase in their own back yard, the Crusaders will be an official ADHSHL member beginning with the 2020-2021 season, featuring both a Varsity and Junior Varsity team.
Overall, the 2019-2020 season was certainly one for the record books. On the back of excitement and an eagerness for many to get back on the ice, the 2020-2021 season may be the most anticipated yet. The new league year will bring the fourth annual and newly-expanded ADHSHL Vegas Showcase in December, as well as the tenth anniversary of the ADHSHL All-Star Games and postseason championships.