From March 11-13 in Simi Valley, the Eagles were able to control the three-day tournament that began with a night that will never be forgotten by Ireland.
On his 18th birthday, and also the first day of the state tourney, Ireland made it clear that he wasn't there just to play, he was there to win.
Ireland scored four goals, including two shorthanded goals and an assist. The Eagles defeated the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, 6-0, in the opening round.
“I felt very emotional after that game, but very happy,” said Ireland. “It was the best game of my life.”
The Eagles followed their first round victory with a win over California Wave by a score of 2-1. Ireland had an assist in a very tight contest.
The Anaheim Jr. Ducks made a comeback from the elimination round after losing in the first round and met the Eagles for a final showdown that ended in a 4-1 victory and a State title. Ireland scored a goal in the finale.
“So I had a seven-point weekend,” said Ireland. “Our team goal was to make State champions and go to Nationals, so we accomplished our goals, yes.”
Ireland, who is also part of the Turlock varsity tennis team, will now lead his hockey team into the National Championship tournament that will run for five days.
“Being my first year with this team and achieving this, I have to credit my dad (Michael) for my love of hockey,” said Ireland. “He plays, and I've been around it my whole life. It's my family's favorite sport. I feel very comfortable in a rink. I'm in a bubble when I skate and play hockey, it's my passion.”
Living in the Valley, ice rinks and snow are very rare, but Ireland and his family have sacrificed a lot for the chance to play hockey, driving him over an hour and a half every day, while playing varsity tennis at Turlock High.
“Now I hope to finish the year by winning Nationals,” said Ireland. “...I have dedicated so much time and hard work to this sport.”
Ireland is eligible to play another year with the team.
“I am not sure if I will play with this team or not next year,” said Ireland. “This team has the best coaches in California. I might want to take advantage of that next year, but my goal is to move on to a junior's team somewhere and then play hockey in college.”
The Eagles and Ireland will participate in the National Championship tournament for the CAHA at Amherst, New York, from March 31-April 4. There will be 12 teams from around the country competing.