High School hockey team (Outlaws) win at Staples Center and then State

Hockey team wins State championships

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The East County Outlaws boys’ hockey team won the California Amateur Hockey League State Championships March 25 and the Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey league the weekend before.

Oak Park seniors EJ Kaufman and Anthony Johnson both played for the Outlaws, made up of Ventura and Los Angeles county residents.

Kaufman, a goaltender, credits the team’s success to a speech the coach gave.

“Our coach said to us on the first practice ‘We’re playing this season to go to Staples Center,’” Kaufman said. “We kept that talk in mind for the entire season and that pushed us to the championship.”

The championship game of the league was held at the Staples Center, the LA Kings’ arena. “The second we stepped onto the ice as players in our pads, we immediately noticed how large the stadium is,” Kaufman said. “We also noticed how hot it was because Staples Center can afford to heat the arena and also keep the ice frozen at the same time. After warmups, everyone was sweating so much.”

Johnson, a defenseman, also had to adapt to the heat and size of the arena. “It is extremely hot. The ice was not cold at all for some reason,” Johnson said. “[Staples Center] was a wonder to look at but it turned into every other game where you focus down and think ‘have to play this, time to get to work.’”

The Outlaws’ win at Staples Center allowed them to advance to the state playoffs in Sacramento.

“The Kings high school hockey league is fairly new. There is a Northern California high school league and another league in Orange County and the surrounding area. The top two teams from each of the three leagues played in the state finals,” Kaufman said.

After advancing out of pool play and through the semi-finals, the Outlaws faced a team from San Francisco for the state championship. After being tied 2-2, the game went into overtime.

“That was the most terrifying moment of my life. We had two players get penalties on the same play so the other team had a five on three power play for two minutes where they probably had 15 shots,” Kaufman said. “Then, with eight seconds left in overtime, we scored and everyone went insane.”

“It felt heart stopping to be honest,” Johnson said of winning the championship. “Everything froze for five seconds and then there was a blast of excitement.”

For Kaufman and Johnson, winning the State Championship was the culmination of years of playing hockey. “It was really cool to prove that we were the best team in not only the league but also the state,” Kaufman said. “It was the perfect ending to my hockey career.”

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