Voodoo looking to rekindle interest in pro hockey scene

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Without a professional ice hockey team in place in the San Diego market to spike interest in both youth ice and roller hockey programs (as is the case in Orange and Los Angeles counties with the NHL Ducks and Kings), the San Diego Voodoo is doing its best to rekindle interest since the departure of the San Diego Barracudas of Roller Hockey International in 1996 and the San Diego Gulls of the ECHL in 2006.

Without a professional ice hockey team in place in the San Diego market to spike interest in both youth ice and roller hockey programs (as is the case in Orange and Los Angeles counties with the NHL Ducks and Kings), the San Diego Voodoo is doing its best to rekindle interest since the departure of the San Diego Barracudas of Roller Hockey International in 1996 and the San Diego Gulls of the ECHL in 2006.

The Voodoo competes in the American Inline Hockey League. The AIHL is currently regarded as the highest level of professional play for inline hockey in the United States. 

That’s good news for East County hockey fans, in particular, and the inline hockey community of San Diego County overall.

The Voodoo, which is fielding teams in both the AIHL’s Elite and Minor tiers, plays its home games at RSportz Arena in El Cajon.

“The rink opening up was huge for East County and San Diego in general,” Voodoo goaltender Zach Cummings said. 

A graduate of Foothills Christian High School in La Mesa, Cummings began playing in the rink’s adult leagues after the facility opened last April.

“When I found out about the Voodoo, I tried out and made the starting team,” he said, smiling.

The Voodoo’s roster includes players who formerly played with the team during its first two seasons in the AIHL in 2008-10 as well as high-level players from adult leagues in the county and alumni from the nation’s only state-sanctioned high school inline hockey league, the CIF-Metro Conference.

Cummings picked up the game as a youth but is only now reconnecting with it as an adult in the AIHL. He began playing inline hockey at age six and won a regional ice hockey championship with the San Diego Saints at the 14U Bantam A level.

But he dropped hockey in favor of football his junior and seniors years at Foothills Christian. He went on to accept a scholarship to play football at Dordt College.

Cummings played wide receiver his junior year with the Knights, catching 43 passes for 692 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for 15 yards on 13 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns.

As a senior in 2010, he moved behind center, completing 38 of 113 passing attempts for 758 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 290 yards on 86 carries and scored seven rushing touchdowns.

Cummings is back in hockey gear and loving every minute of it.

Though the Voodoo Elite squad has yet to pick up a victory in its opening seven games, Cummings leads the team in goals-against average while facing some of the top players not only in the U.S., but internationally as well.

So, what’s the biggest difference between playing goaltender and wide receiver?

“As a goaltender, it’s about being more mental – staying very focused and calm,” Cummings said. “In football, you’re always rowdy and getting fired up.”

Like many players on the Voodoo, Cummings hopes to play a role in the development of the sport at the higher competition levels.

“The spread in the popularity of roller hockey (through the AIHL) is really growing,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of it during this growing period. The intensity is great. The guys are down to earth. There’s a lot of camaraderie on the team.”

The Voodoo is next scheduled to play in a jamboree tournament Feb. 8-9 in Irvine where the team will play four games, including two match-ups against teams from the Bay Area and another against the defending AIHL Western Conference Las Vegas Aces.

Despite missing its top four players in last Saturday’s three-game series against the OC Alliance, the Voodoo was competitive for the most part, dropping the final contest by a score of 4-2.

West Hills High School alumnus David Baldwin picked up a goal and assist in that game while brother Eric collected two assists. The brothers each scored goals in an 8-2 loss in the middle game to rack up three of the Voodoo’s five goals scored in the three games.

Former Wolf Pack players have impacted the Voodoo in its revival season. Defenseman Brad Majeski played in all four Minor tier games as well as one Elite tier game, collecting one goal and one assist in posting a standout ironman performance.

Zach Peters, another West Hills alum, scored two goals for the Voodoo’s Minor squad in the four games against the OC Alliance Pink and OC Alliance Green teams. The OC Alliance Pink team remains undefeated on the season at 10-0.

The Voodoo dropped to 2-6 in Minor tier play to start the season.

“It’s going to take time,” David Baldwin assessed on a positive note. 

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