Puck Pals

Jr. Kings defenseman Ronan Holtzman guards the slot against the Jr. Gulls
Photos by Steve Galluzzo

Austin Cragg and Ronan Holtzman Lead Jr. Kings’ Squirt B Team to CAHA Finals

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

Austin Cragg begged his mom to let him try out for the Jr. Kings travel hockey team, she finally did and after the Marquez Elementary fourth-grader made the 10-and-under squad he was happy to discover that one of his teammates was also one of his best friends.

Cragg and Ronan Holtzman, who lives five houses away in Mandeville Canyon, led their Jr. Kings’ Squirt B team to second place in the California Amateur Hockey Association’s state finals  last weekend in Valencia—the culmination of a grueling season that began in August.

“Hockey is one of the first sports I tried and I like the feeling of sweating and breathing and being on the ice,” said Cragg, who plays left wing and assisted on the Kings’ only goal in Sunday’s championship game against the Jr. Gulls 1 from San Diego. “Ronan and I hang out a lot, we play video games, we play tag and sometimes we play hockey in my garage. I got a giant NHL-size hockey net for my birthday.”

Cragg gets his hockey skills from his mom Caitlin, who played the sport at Canterbury Boarding School in Connecticut. He went dog sledding in Sweden, arriving home three days before the CAHA tournament. He likes the physical aspect of the game. “It feels really good to check people,” he said.    

“Yeah, especially if they deserve it!” Holtzman chimed in.

Holtzman, who attends PS1  in Santa Monica, is a defenseman who began skating when he was 3 and was playing hockey by third grade. “I mountain bike, I play soccer and I do karate but hockey is my favorite,” he said. “I like defense because I can stop goals. The things I practice most are my stick handling and shooting. My dad played when he was little and my mom figure skated.”   

Mandeville Canyon neighbors Austin Cragg (left) and Ronan Holtzman wear their CAHA medals proudly.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

The Jr. Kings got off to a great start last weekend, easily winning their first two pool play games against the Jr. Bears of Oakland and Jr. Sharks of San Jose on Friday before falling to the Jr. Gulls  on Saturday. The Southern California teams met again in the final.

The boys also play on the in-house team in El Segundo and  will be aging up to the 12-and-under Knights next season.

The Kings beat the Gulls 5-4 in the Southern California Amateur Hockey Association (SCAHA) finals March 24 in Anaheim to finish first out of 22 teams.

“We tried hard but the Gulls were mad because we beat every time them before,” Cragg said after Sunday’s game.

“I want to keep playing, I’m not giving up,” Holtzman added

Although both boys follow the Los Angeles Kings they are New York Rangers fans because their families are from the East Coast—the Craggs from Connecticut and the Holtzman’s from the New York/New Jersey area.

Rounding out the Jr. Kings’  Squirt B roster were Stepan Kirilenko and Laith Johnson of  Bel Air, Anthony Trutanich of Palos Verdes, Alexander Moral of Redondo Beach, Moses Newmark of Culver City, Brett Yu of Hawthorne, Shane Sheth of Manhattan Beach, Tuvia Perets of Los Feliz, Hudson Feller of Westwood, Connor Hitzig of El Segundo, Mackenzie Hunter ofInglewood and Broden Scissors from Ladera Heights.

Scissors attends Westside Waldorf School and his brother Julian is a sophomore infielder on Palisades High’s varsity baseball team.