RIPON – Competitive roller hockey has been on the rise in the Central Valley.
Two local AAU in-line skating squads competed in Huntington Beach at the Junior Olympics on July 18-21, when the Ripon Ravens’ eight-and-under team took home a bronze medal, while the Verbero Swag 12-and-under team settled for a fourth-place finish.
Both teams are based out of the Verbero Powerplay Sports Arena in Ripon.
Five locals from the area were on the two rosters, but McParland Elementary incoming fourth grader Nolan Mix was the only Mantecan on the Ravens.
Ripon, which was coached by Dallas Mix, finished third and suffered its only loss of the tournament against Huntington Beach’s Notion.
The Ravens finished 5-1 with wins over the Reebok Jr. Ducks (7-3), Katios Hockey Club (8-0), Delta River Rats (11-3), Silicon Valley Quakes (3-2) and the Jr. Ducks, again, 10-2.
Ripon’s only loss was in overtime, 6-5. The Ravens had the lead late into the second half. The Notion tied it with less than a few minutes left in regulation.
“The (semifinals) were very competitive,” coach Mix said. “They tied it with two minutes remaining. And probably about six or seven minutes into overtime, the puck went off the goaltender’s shoulder and (flew) behind him and literally spun on the goal line. It was kind of controversial. We weren’t sure if it went in or not, but the refs said it did.”
That goal deprived Ripon of getting a chance to compete for the championship. However, the Ravens did win the third-place game with an eight-goal romp.
In AAU roller hockey, competitions are broke down into two 20-minute halves, as opposed to ice hockey’s three 20-minute periods. They also play 5-on-5, including the goalies.
“They had the rink set up outside, and we were just playing street hockey outdoors with different cultures,” coach Mix said, noting one of Ripon’s victories was against a Columbia team. “There was also a regional tournament, and at the same time, an international tournament going on.
“The United States women won the whole thing for the international division, and there probably had to be 3,000 people watching that game.”
Ripon also won the PIHL (Pacific inline Hockey League) championship earlier this summer. The Ravens also competed in the Norcal Cup SIHL (Sierra Inline Hockey League) and the Winter Wars tournament.
Christian Johnson (Modesto) led the Ravens with 13 goals in six games.
“Roller hockey is a great sport,” coach Mix concluded. “It’s good for the kids and there’s a lot of structure and discipline. You could play ice hockey in Stockton, but they have roller hockey rinks in Ripon, Antioch, Stockton, Woodland and Sonora.
“And that’s just in the Central Valley, so you can see how popular roller hockey is becoming.”
The Verbero Swag 12-and-unders came home with a copper medal (fourth place) in their Single-A division. The Swag played a team from Hong Kong, Columbia along with other California teams.
Brendan Keast, Blaze Pascua and Dawson Mix and Jack English were the four locals who contributed to the Verbero’s Junior Olympic run in roller hockey.