The Santa Barbara Royals rose to the occasion on the big stage of Staples Center on Saturday and blanked the Kern County Knights, 4-0, to win the first championship of the Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey League.
Jack Johnson scored two goals, Chris Ewasiuk had a goal and an assist and goalies Will Hahn and Brady Rotondo combined on the shutout to lead the Royals in the inaugural championship game played at the home of the L.A. Kings.
The Royals were the No. 1 seed in the four-team playoffs after winning the regular season title of the eight-team league with a 14-0-1 record. They defeated the South County Aviators in the first round. Kern County advanced by beating West Ranch.
Colin Del Bonis got the Royals on the board in the first period with unassisted goal at 11:52. Jack Johnson and Ewasuik combined on a power-play goal with 16 seconds left in the period for a 2-0 lead.
Johnson, a defenseman who was the second leading goal scorer in the league, powered his way down the ice for a short-handed, unassisted goal at 5:25 of the second period.
Johnson was honored as the Wayne Gretzky MVP Award Winner.
Ewasuik completed the scoring off a Jared McMullen assist at 13:17 of the third period. Ewasuik was awarded the Dave Taylor Leadership/Sportsmanship trophy.
Hahn played the bulk of the game in goal and stopped 12 shots. He was named winner of the Rogie Vachon Goalie of Year award.
"All the players have been great and, I believe, improved throughout the year," said Royals coach Steve Heinze. "Jack Johnson joined the team as a very talented player and has only gotten better. He had an unassisted goal rushing from our end, as a defenseman killing a 5-on-3 penalty. I don¹t know if I've ever been involved in a game where that has happened."
The Royals' defense was at the top of its game.
"Anybody can play defense in hockey if they are willing to sacrifice and work hard," said Heinze. "We had back-to-back shutouts in our two playoff games, that speaks volumes about our team and, of course, our goalies."
For Heinze, the final was a trip down memory lane as he returned to the building where he finished his NHL career.
"It was a little different perspective, and way more nerve racking to be behind the bench," admitted Heinze, who played two seasons with the Kings. "But any time you are involved in a game at Staples Center is special."
He said there were lots of "oohs and ahhs and ‘this is pretty cool’ from the players when they arrived at Staples Center. "But when they got on the ice it was all business."
The league recognized Heinze as the Darryl Sutter Coach of the Year honoree.
The Royals are a collection of players from San Marcos, Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara high schools. They train and play at the Ice in Paradise complex in Goleta.
They'll next play the champions of the Anaheim Ducks High School League on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
L.A. Kings High School Ice Hockey League Award Winners:
Wayne Gretzky MVP: Jack Johnson – Santa Barbara Royals (San Marcos High)
Luc Robitaille Freshman: Tristan Warr – West Ranch High School
Rob Blake Defenseman: Paul Daley – Liberty High School
Rogie Vachon Goalie: Will Hahn – Santa Barbara Royals (Santa Barbara High)
Dave Taylor Leader/Sportsmanship: Chris Ewasiuk – Santa Barbara Royals (San Marcos High)
Marcel Dionne Scoring Leader: Tristan Warr – West Ranch High
Darryl Sutter Coach of the Year: Steve Heinze – Santa Barbara Royals