Video: GSB Royals win in Ice-in-Paradise debut

At last, home ice.

The Greater Santa Barbara Royals played their first game at the Ice in Paradise skating facility in Goleta on Saturday and came away with a 3-2 victory over the Kern County Knights in the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League.

“It was exciting for all the boys to have their high school friends cheering them on and the home town crowd gave them some energy,” said head coach Steve Heinze, a former NHL player. “Everybody loves the new rink and it definitely gave our boys a little extra motivation tonight.”

The team’s home-ice opener was originally scheduled for Oct. 3 but the ice wasn’t ready, so it played at the Channel Islands Skating Center in Oxnard.

The Royals’ first two goals occurred in the first period. Colin Del Bonis scored the first goal at Ice in Paradise at the 13:06 mark, on an assist from Brett Knowles. Jack Johnson made it 2-0 at 10:31, firing a wrist shot past the Kern County goalie. Nick Poire and Jacob Watkins got the assists.

“We got off to a really good start. They had a much deeper bench than us and they got more rest throughout the game. So fortunately we were able to put in three early on and our defense was able to hold on through the finish,” said Heinze.

The winning goal was scored by Jared McMullen, assisted by Knowles and Johnson at 11:40 of the second period.

The Knights were able to generate some offense late in the second period before finally scoring on a counterattack with three minutes remaining, closing the gap to two just before the intermission.

They were then able to tack on one more midway through the final period when a beautiful cross pass from the opposition connected with a sprinting forward who then made one move passed the keeper and converted.

“They were coming at us really hard at the end of the second so I told our guys at the break that Kern County likes to hit, likes to play rough, and they weren’t going to quit,” said Heinze. “It was real character of our guys to not let themselves get intimidated and they did a great job closing it out.”

The Knights threatened in a tense third period. The final minutes resulted in some pushing and shoving and several penalties on both teams. Poire was injured with approximately 5:00 left in the third period and did not return.

The Royals held on and celebrated a victory in their home debut on the NHL-size rink.

Brady Rotondo and Will Hahn split time in goal for the Royals. Rotando stopped all eight shots he faced, while Hahn made seven saves. Greater Santa Barbara outshot Kern County 35-17.

The Royals are 3-0 in the inaugural season for the league.

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