Hosers face off inline hockey season in tremendous fashion

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The American Inline Hockey League features a more compact, streamlined product for the 2015-16 season, but smaller doesn’t necessarily mean less potent.  

The San Diego Tron Hosers emerged with the early lead in the Pacific South/Southwest Division after successfully fending off challenges from their two Arizona rivals — the Arizona Ghostriders and Arizona Outcasts — to win the opening tournament of the season Jan. 9-10 at Skate San Diego in El Cajon.

The American Inline Hockey League features a more compact, streamlined product for the 2015-16 season, but smaller doesn’t necessarily mean less potent.  

The San Diego Tron Hosers emerged with the early lead in the Pacific South/Southwest Division after successfully fending off challenges from their two Arizona rivals — the Arizona Ghostriders and Arizona Outcasts — to win the opening tournament of the season Jan. 9-10 at Skate San Diego in El Cajon.

Three Hosers teams competed in the two-day tournament. The Hosers finished 5-0-1 (five wins, one overtime loss) to emerge on top of the Pro/Elite Division while, in the Minor Division tier, the Hosers White team finished 6-0 and the Hosers Black team finished 3-3.

“I think we performed great,” Hosers program director Joe Noris assessed after the opening tournament of the season. “The team has progressed in a tremendous way. I think what made us so successful were two things. The first thing is that we have some good guys on our team, and by that, I mean guys who are team players. The second thing is that they are all competitive guys and want to win, and put out the effort to win.”

Noris also heaped praise on team manager Steve Baldwin for organizing practices and playing a major role in player recruitment.

The AIHL Pacific South/Southwest Division includes just four teams in the Pro/Elite Division this season: the Hosers, Ghostriders and Outcasts along with the Las Vegas Aces.

The Las Vegas team was unable to compete in the tournament at Skate San Diego but will compete in the next three tournaments.

Each team will play 24 regular season games between four tournaments stretching from January to April. The next tournament is scheduled Feb. 13-14 in Irvine.

The Hosers are the only team in the division fielding two Minor Division tier teams.

The Hosers White team leads the division while the Hosers White team is in second place.

With the former dominant teams from Orange County not competing in the league this season, the Hosers hope to fill that void with championship titles, possibly even at the national level.

Toward that end, the Hosers Pro/Elite team added a pair of highly decorated superstars to its roster in the guise of brothers Juaquin and Itan Chavira.

“This is one league we’ve never won,” explained Juaquin Chavira, who has competed internationally with his brother for Team USA. “I’d like to win it with San Diego. I’ve competed for a very long time. No matter what league you play in, you want to finish on top. It’s another challenge.”

“We were fortunate enough to get the Chavira brothers, who I’ve known for a number of years, to play for us,” said Noris, a former Team USA head coach. “There wasn’t a team in Orange County this year and we reached out to them and they wanted to play.

“They’ve played at such a high level for years and bring such a high level of experience to our team. They have been a great addition to our team. They came in with respect for our players and our players, in turn, provided them with respect.”

Juaquin Chavira’s journey back to playing high-level hockey in the AIHL is inspirational in its own right. He is a Stage 4 cancer survivor.

“It’s a true blessing,” Itan Chavira said of being able to play alongside his brother. “He’s fallen in love with the sport again.”

Go Pro

The Hosers Elite/Pro team led the tournament with 35 goals scored in six games while allowing just 14 goals, also a tournament best. The Outcasts, who scored 24 goals and gave up 20 goals, finished 3-3 in their six games while the Ghostriders, who were out-scored 38-13, went 1-5.

The Hosers swept all three games against the Ghostriders, winning by scores of 6-5, 9-1 and 7-0. The San Diego team captured its first two match-ups against the Outcasts by scores of 4-2 and 5-1 before falling, 5-4, in overtime in the tourney finale.

As a point of reference, the Outcasts are primarily comprised of players from the Arizona State University team that went 5-1 and advanced to the Division I quarterfinals of last year’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association national championship tournament in Independence, Mo.

Johnny Noris, son of the Hosers head coach, and La Mesa native Stephan Demopoulos, a former ice hockey player at Providence College, led the Hosers in tournament scoring with 10 points each. The younger Noris had eight goals and two assists, while Demopoulos collected five goals and five assists.

Other tournament scoring leaders for the Hosers included Billy Metcalf (six goals, three assists), Itan Chavira (four goals, five assists), Luis “Speedy” Gonzalez (four goals, two assists), David Baldwin (four goals, one assist) and Reed Kinsey (two goals, two assists).

Overall, the Hosers received either a goal or assist from 12 players. Goaltender Zach Cummings, a Foothills Christian High School alum, compiled a solid 2.28 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.

“The really cool thing is that even though the league in our division has shrunk at bit, we still have the majority of our players from East San Diego County,” the Hosers coach explained. “Most of the guys live within a 10-mile radius of this rink. It makes for a team that is a local team, which is really cool.”

The Hosers expect to use a rotating line-up based on player availability throughout the season. Johnny Noris, a professional surfer, is part of the World Qualifying Series and will be off to Australia for a month.

“I can only make a few of the games because I’m traveling with the world surfing,” Johnny Noris explained. “It’s fun to be able to hang out with my hockey friends and play. A couple of guys I’ve known for 20 years.”

The younger Noris is ranked 219th out of 1,100 on the surf tour. He sees good things for the Hosers hockey-wise.

“We’ve added the Chavira brothers — they’re a couple of the best players in the world,” Johnny Noris said. “They’ve played at a very high level for 10-plus years. I think once we learn to play together, we can win the national championship. We played just one game together and we already started to mesh.”

“We have a big group of goal-scorers,” the elder Noris explained. “Billy Metcalf is one of our top scorers from last year and he’s already going full speed. And we didn’t even have Chucky (Charles Baldwin, aka rapper Chucky Slick), who is playing professional ice hockey in the Czech Republic. He’ll join us after the ice hockey season is over, and everyone knows what a great goal-scorer he is.”

Major minors

The Hosers White team swept the Ghostriders by scores of 10-5 and 7-0, swept the Outcasts by scores of 4-2 and 4-3 and swept the Hosers Black team by scores of 7-2 and 5-4 to complete its perfect start to the season.

Eddy DeBus topped the team with 12 points (five goals, seven assists), followed on the score sheet by Vito Vaiasuso with 11 points (seven goals, four assists), Danny Pacheco with nine points (eight goals, one assist) and Steve Hanley (seven goals, one assist) and Anthony Distefano (three goals, five assists) each with eight points.

Former East County prep standout Casey Peterson finished 6-0 between the pipes with a 2.67 GAA and .840 save percentage.

The Hosers Black team swept both games against the Outcasts (winning 3-2 in overtime and 5-3) and finished 1-1 against Ghostriders, winning 3-2 after facing off the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Arizona team.

Zach Peters (five goals, two assists) and George Godinez (four goals, three assists) both finished with seven points to lead the Hosers White team in scoring.

Peters and David Baldwin, along with Brad Majeski, who played on the Hosers Elite/pro team in the tournament, were all members of West Hills High School’s 2013 CIF-Metro Conference Kiwanis Cup championship team.

The Outcasts stand third in the Minor Division tier standings with a 2-3-1 record while the Ghostriders are 1-5.

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