EL SEGUNDO — While there wasn’t much to celebrate about in the ending of the La Cañada High club hockey team’s season, a simple look back gave the Spartans plenty to smile about.
For the first time in seven years, the Spartans qualified for the playoffs as the third seed out of a club high school league team that plays at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
“This is only the second or third time we’ve ever made the playoffs and we’ve gone years without winning a single game in the season,” said La Cañada Coach KC Mathews, who’s coached the team for 12 years and benefited from a squad filled with eight seniors. “The way this team has come together and all these seniors have been here all four years at least, a couple since junior high, it’s fun.”
It was a short stay in the playoffs for the Spartans, as they were eliminated by second-seeded Mira Costa, 8-0, Sunday.
“It felt good, I played on the team for six years, so it was nice to have my last season be a season where we had more wins because the first few years playing with the team we lost every single game and got blown out every single game.”
La Cañada, which finished the season with a 4-7 record, gave up a 47-14 shot advantage in the game and managed four shots on goal against a solid, overall better-skating Mira Costa (10-1) squad.
“We knew coming into this game we’d be the underdog and we were hoping we could pull one out, but they outplayed us,” said La Cañada senior JB Lovelace, one of the team’s top goal scorers this year. “We played a strong game, I think it was one of our strongest of the season — all heart.”
While the Spartans fought to get on the board until the very end, they couldn’t convert on any of their few breakaway chances.
Spartans goalie Larkin Iversen kept his team in the game early, as La Cañada was in a 2-0 hole at the end of the first period despite giving up a late power play and Mira Costa enjoying a 14-3 edge in shots taken.
“It felt great considering we went 0-10 last year,” Iversen said. “That’s a pretty big improvement and it felt pretty good. I think we’ll only keep building.”
Iversen had seven of his impressive 28 saves in the first period.
“Those were some high-quality shots he was making some saves on and some acrobatic stops,” Mathews said. “The improvement he’s made year-to-year is remarkable and he really dedicated himself to becoming a goalie.
“He’s a very top-notch goalie here, which you saw tonight.”
While the hockey season is over for La Cañada, it may not be the end to the careers of Peck and Lovelace. Peck plans on attempting to walk-on to Northern Arizona University’s NCAA Division III hockey team next year. Lovelace also plans on lacing up the skates again with Loyola Marymount’s club team.
“If you look at where they were the first game ... they grew so much over the season,” Mathews said. “For me, that’s a lot of fun. They should be proud of themselves, they played hard.”