Patriots end start-up season with loss in Kiwanis Cup playoffs

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The CIF-Metro Conference Kiwanis Cup roller hockey playoffs faced off Feb. 22 and, much to the delight of Patrick Henry High School’s first-year program, the Patriots were included in the 12-team draw.

Patrick Henry received the No. 9 seed and met eighth-seeded Otay Ranch in the first round.   

The game, played at Castle Park High School’s outdoor rink, was expected to be close after the teams played to a 6-6 tie in January’s Pam Wiser Classic tournament, and a month later, the rematch lived up to its billing.

The CIF-Metro Conference Kiwanis Cup roller hockey playoffs faced off Feb. 22 and, much to the delight of Patrick Henry High School’s first-year program, the Patriots were included in the 12-team draw.

Patrick Henry received the No. 9 seed and met eighth-seeded Otay Ranch in the first round.   

The game, played at Castle Park High School’s outdoor rink, was expected to be close after the teams played to a 6-6 tie in January’s Pam Wiser Classic tournament, and a month later, the rematch lived up to its billing.

The Patriots bowed out of the playoffs following an 11-8 loss to the Mustangs, but Patrick Henry’s players and coaching staff have to be proud of the progress they made over the course of their first season.

Patrick Henry head coach Chuck Russell noted that the majority of his players had never picked up a hockey stick before this season, much less have played in a roller hockey game.

“We had a blast this year and are looking forward to coming back next year with more experience behind us,” Russell explained. “We’re looking to continue to grow and this was another step in that direction.”

The Patriots finished their start-up season with a final 3-19-1 overall record after posting a 1-17-0 record in North County League play.

The playoff game was the icing on the cake.

“We knew the match up with Otay Ranch was going to be a great one,” Russell explained. “We tied them in the Pam Wiser tournament and we learned then that our teams are similar.

“We fell behind 9-3 in the second period, but we had a feeling that their key players were beginning to wear down. We outscored them 3-1 in the third period to make it 10-8.”

The game exploded in intensity from there.

Team captain Matt Russell had a great opportunity to make it a one-goal game, but Mustang goaltender Ryan Strodtman made a clutch save. The puck went the other way and Otay Ranch’s Paul Chavez was able to dump the puck into an empty net to seal the victory for Otay Ranch, which advanced to Tuesday’s quarterfinals against top-seeded Rancho Bernardo with a 13-6-1 overall record.

Matt Russell led Patrick in scoring in the playoff game with six goals and two assists; he had a hand in all eight of his team’s goals.

The playoff game featured several momentum shifts.

The Patriots tied the game early at 1-1 and 2-2 before the Mustangs reeled off five unanswered goals to take a 7-2 lead. Patrick Henry started to chip away at the seemingly imposing lead at that point.

Matt Russell scored a power play goal to trim the Patriots’ deficit on the scoreboard to 7-3. The Mustangs advanced the score to 9-3 before the fledgling roller hockey team picked up the pace by outscoring Otay Ranch 5-1 to narrow the score to 10-8.

Patrick Henry pulled its goaltender with two minutes to play to put an extra attacker on the floor and the Mustangs had to endure some nervous moments before Chavez finally put the game out of reach by scoring into the empty net with 1:17 to play.

Chavez finished the game with three goals and one assist. Sean Devaney led the victorious Mustangs with six goals and two assists. David Mendez rounded out the scoring for Otay Ranch with two goals and one assist.

Mustang coach John King was complimentary of the Patriots’ strong effort.

“They’re not a bad team,” the Otay Ranch coach explained. “They’re well coached and have a good team. They had more players than we did. I think we started to get tired in the second period. But overall I’m happy with the outcome.”

Despite the loss, the elder Russell has to be happy with the outcome as well.

“We'll have to wait until next year to even up with Otay Ranch,” he said. “I can't tell you how excited our players are for the 2017-18 season.”

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