Patriot Act: first year Patrick Henry roller hockey team showing growth

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Patrick Henry High School’s fledgling roller hockey team has certainly experienced its ups and downs in its inaugural season. The team carried a 0-5 North County League record into the New Year, which quickly became 0-8 following the opening two weeks of the 2017 calendar year.

Patrick Henry High School’s fledgling roller hockey team has certainly experienced its ups and downs in its inaugural season. The team carried a 0-5 North County League record into the New Year, which quickly became 0-8 following the opening two weeks of the 2017 calendar year.

But things are definitely looking up for head coach Chuck Russell’s group after the team reeled off its first two wins by competing in the Pam Wiser Classic tournament on Jan. 16. The Patriots then recorded their first league win following the tournament by defeating Poway, 8-7, on Jan. 19.

Russell said he expected his team to turn in a stronger second half of the season.

“Our expectations are focused on growth,” the Patrick Henry coach explained. “Each week, we plan to build on the successes of the previous week. Like any team in its inaugural season, we may struggle at first, but our plan is to carve out a few victories as we hit the mid-point of the season. 

“We have had some lopsided results playing in the North County League, but anyone that has played us knows that the kids are optimistic and excited about playing. By the end of the season, we expect to be seen as a solid addition to the league.”

The Patriots appear right on schedule.

Southern exposure

The tournament is dedicated to the memory of Wiser, a former Chula Vista High School head coach and Southwest assistant coach who was instrumental in helping keep the sport of roller hockey alive in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

In the past, the field has only included Sweetwater district teams, but the field was expanded to 10 teams this year to include Patrick Henry, a first-year start-up program.

A total of 20 games were played at the Castle Park High School rink throughout the day. Champions were crowned in two divisions.

Games were divided into two 12-minute halves. Standings were based on round-robin results. Teams were awarded three points for each win and one point for each tie in their respective divisions.

Patrick Henry participated in the afternoon group along with Chula Vista, Eastlake, Hilltop and Otay Ranch high schools. It was considered the stronger of the two groups.

Chula Vista, the defending South Bay League champion, entered the tournament with a 7-0 record while Eastlake and Otay Ranch were tied for this year’s Mesa League lead, both with 2-0 league records.

Patrick Henry, meanwhile, entered the tournament winless while competing in the rugged North County League. The question of the day was just where the Patriots, fielding a first-year team, would fit in with the Sweetwater district teams.

It turned out they fit in quite well. 

Patriots Day

First-year Patrick Henry finished 2-1-1 in the tournament to place third behind division champion Otay Ranch (3-0-1) and runner-up Eastlake (3-1-0). 

The Patriots faced off their first tournament experience by tying defending Mesa League champion Otay Ranch in their first game 6-6. The East County team then recorded its first pair of wins in school history: 4-2 over Hilltop and 7-1 over Chula Vista. 

Patrick Henry closed out its four round-robin games with an 8-3 loss to Eastlake.

“The kids were so excited when they heard that Patrick Henry High School was going to be a part of the Pam Wiser tournament this year,” the Patriots head coach explained. “Six out of 11 of my players had never played a game of hockey before this season, never mind playing in a tournament. 

“The tournament far surpassed our expectations. We were placed in a division that was challenging, but not overwhelming. I could see my players developing as we moved from one game to the next. It was a fantastic day of hockey.”

Matt Russell, the coach’s son, keyed the Patriots in tournament scoring with eight goals and four assists. Clinton Allen contributed three goals and three assists while Ruben Allen had two goals and two assists. 

Jenny Russell, the coach’s daughter, scored three goals while Angel Lara had two goals and one assist. Derek Carver collected one goal and one assist while Cameron Elswick picked up two assists.

Matt Russell led the Pats with four goals in the 6-6 draw against Otay Ranch; he had two goals and two assists in the win over Chula Vista.

Castle Park, Bonita Vista, Mar Vista, Southwest and Sweetwater comprised Group A, which played during the morning session. Castle Park went 4-0 to win the group title.

Slap shots

Patrick Henry made history for a second time by picking up its first league win when the team returned to North County League play following the tournament.

The Patriots dropped a 10-2 decision to Scripps Ranch on Jan. 18 to fall to 0-9 in league play but came back the next day to top Poway, which had edged the Patriots, 8-7, in the opening round of league play.

Matt Russell scored with 21 seconds left in the Jan. 19 game to win it for the Pats. John Miller had two assists and was named the MVP of the game, according to the elder Russell.

Matt Russell, Ruben Allen and Felix Gomes were responsible for the scoring. The goal by Gomes was his first ever.

Matt Russell led the Patriots in scoring with 12 goals and two assists heading into the Pam Wiser tournament, followed by sister Jenny Russell with two goals and three assists, Clinton Allen with two goals and two assists, Miller and Elswick each with one goal and one assist. Ruben Allen, Carver, Gomes, Tyler Daniel and Angel Lara each had one assist.

Matt Russell scored three goals in a 9-3 loss to Escondido Charter as league play resumed on Jan. 2 following the holiday break. Of note, first-year goaltender Aidan Rion made 64 saves in only his seventh game between the pipes in a 16-2 loss to Rancho Bernardo on Jan. 9.

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