OC Hockey Club’s Midget AAA teams left a strong impression on me this season, and I wasn’t the only one.
The hard-hitting 16U and 18U teams from Yorba Linda didn’t leave El Segundo with a Pacific District title, but as they had all season, they gave every one a tough game.
A quick review of both teams’ performance follows, and I want to give a strong nod to brothers Jim and Joe Burcar, who coach and assist each other with the two teams.
The 16s reached the semifinals after a 2-0-1 (OTL) record in round-robin play. They gave the Jr. Kings their toughest game (it was 3-2 at one point in the third period) and were a tough out. They came in having finished runner-up at the CAHA States.
As he was at State, defenseman Riley Hummitsch was the team’s leading scorer (6 points). A pair of forwards, Shane McMahan and Elijah Barriga, each chipped in five points. The goaltending combo of Jon Manlow and Kenneth Eakle was solid with both boasting save percentages north of .910.
They were in every game, regardless of outcome.
The 18s went 1-2 yet had a positive goal differential (6-5). They played what amounted to a semifinal in the round robin against the Jr. Kings and lost, 2-1, on two power-play goals.
Like the 16s, they play a physical style, which often results in a lot of penalties. I believe it’s important to draw the distinction between playing tough and playing dirty. I’ve watched this group at least a half dozen times this season, and I can say OCHC plays tough without crossing the line.
The CAHA State champs, the OC 18s were led at Districts by Lonnie Clary with three goals and defenseman Adam Plonski with three assists. Goalie Arthur Brey was stellar, finishing with a 1.67 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage.
One of the things that struck me about this team was how the core of it has played together for several years, and many of the players won a 16AA National title two years ago. Their improvement from then to 18AAA this season has been pronounced. That tells me this is a dedicated group of players, who work hard and receive excellent coaching and skill development instruction.
It should be noted that OCHC was the only California club that sent both Midget teams to the Prospects Hockey League playoffs.
While their seasons ended earlier than they’d have preferred, the boys at OCHC have nothing to be ashamed about their seasons.