CIF roller hockey champion Wolf Pack finds home at new East County rink

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CIF-Metro Conference champion West Hills High School roller hockey team has a new home next season with the opening of a new skating rink in El Cajon. Wolf Pack coach Steve Baldwin said he hopes the relocation of Skate San Diego from National City to East County helps rekindle interest in the sport locally.

CIF-Metro Conference champion West Hills High School roller hockey team has a new home next season with the opening of a new skating rink in El Cajon. Wolf Pack coach Steve Baldwin said he hopes the relocation of Skate San Diego from National City to East County helps rekindle interest in the sport locally.

“This will be a new era of roller hockey in East County,” Baldwin said. “The combination of our CIF victory and the opening of the new rink gives us an opportunity to rebuild the sport here in East County. We have already identified coaches for four new high school teams—Montgomery, Grossmont, Santana and Mt. Miguel.”

West Hills formally celebrates its championship season Friday, April 12, with an event at the new rink, located at 165 Denny Way, El Cajon—the site of the old Valley Bowl. The event will double as the opening of the new rink, operated by Joe Noris, a former professional ice hockey player during the 1970s in both the National Hockey League
and World Hockey Association.

Wolf Pack’s CIF championship banner hangs from one of the rafters in the new 22,000-square-foot facility. Baldwin said current members of the West Hills’ varsity, junior varsity and junior high school teams, as well as alumni players, their families, and elected and school officials will attend Friday’s event.

“This is the first time ever that an East County high school roller hockey team has won a CIF title,” Baldwin said. “This is also the first time the Wolf Pack has had a home rink after a seven-year absence of roller hockey in East County.”
West Hills became the 13-year-old conference’s first-ever East County champion when the Wolf Pack defeated the top-seeded Rancho Bernardo Broncos, 6-5 in overtime, to capture the 2013 Kiwanis Cup championship Feb. 27 at the Escondido Sports Center.

East County, once the hotbed for roller hockey and more than a half-dozen high school teams represented the region. Valhalla and Monte Vista squared off in the inaugural championship game of the still-extant San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference.

Monte Vista would go on to emerge as the fledgling sport’s first dynasty with three consecutive conference championships. But closures of roller rinks in La Mesa, El Cajon and Santee over the past decade spelled doom for the sport locally. Only West Hills continued to field a team, and the Wolf Pack’s longevity was cemented with its first championship banner this season.

Wolf Pack, founded as a club team in 1996 joined the CIF-Metro Conference in 2005. This is the 17th year for West Hills program, making it among the oldest operating high school roller hockey teams in San Diego County.
Baldwin said he hopes Friday’s festive gathering will mark an “historic achievement.”

“We are rebuilding the sport from scratch here in East County,” Baldwin said. “The new rink will, of course, benefit West Hills High, but it will benefit all the high school teams we’re forming right now. It will be a feeder program for our teams just like the La Mesa Sports Center.”

West Hills received ample reward as three of its players received recognition on all-conference and all-league teams. Defenseman David Baldwin earned selection to the All-CIF First Team while teammates Zach Peters and Ryan Vanoni, both forwards, earned spots on the All-Central League team.

Baldwin, led the Wolf Pack in regular season scoring with 41 goals and 70 points, was among three West Hills players chosen to play in the recent senior all-star game, joining teammates Cody Boyer and Brad Majeski.

Baldwin and Boyer finished first and second, respectively, in the fastest skater contest while Baldwin finished second in the shootout contest. Teams were picked to ensure competitive balance in the actual game, which ended in a 9-8 score. Baldwin and Boyer each scored three points for their team while Majeski had five for his team.

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