Puck drop

Phillip Brents

Thu December 29, 2016 4:35pm

Former Otay Ranch High School roller hockey coach and star player Adrian Rodriguez has assumed duties as the head coordinating official for referees at the Sweetwater Union High School District’s outdoor rink at Castle Park High School. He’s recruited some former players to help out.
It’s made for a nice community give-back.
“Adrian gave me a call and asked me to come out and officiate,” former Eastlake High School standout Zack McElroy explained. “I was curious how the league had changed since I played, and it has changed a lot.”
Danielle McAvenia’s story is a similar tale, though with a twist.
“Adrian used to be my coach and now I’m skating with him,” she said. “He’s still my boss; I’m still learning from him.”
Rodriguez enjoyed a highly decorated playing career, representing Team USA in international youth competition as well as setting the standard as Otay Ranch’s first roller hockey superstar player. He scored the first goal in Mustangs history on Nov. 30, 2004.
Rodriguez assumed coaching duties in 2008-09. He still wears a no-nonsense demeanor on the rink. But he’s also committed to helping bring the sport up a notch.
With the closure of two community roller rinks in South County in the past several years, and without a feeder program in place, the level of play among district teams has fallen off since Rodriguez, McElroy and McAvenia played.
They’re back to help give the sport a push — and what better way than serve as role models for the players they officiate.
“It’s almost like I’m back playing, but I’m not,” McAvenia smiles broadly when asked what it is like to return to skating on the rink.
McAvenia’s back story is similar to many of those who first learned to rollerskate and play inline hockey at the now defunct Chula Vista RollerSkateLand. “In the third grade I went to watch a friend play and that day I signed up,” she said. “That was my first team sport. It was fun. It was fast-paced.”
She and goaltender Maddie Melendez were among the first girls to play on the Otay Ranch team. “Everyone on the team made me a sister,” McAvenia recalled.
She still has many fond memories from her playing days on the Mustang team, including scoring the opening goal of the 2008-09 season.
“The first year we got the (league) banner, that was a cool experience,” she said.
Her best memory, however, was being named all-league defender her senior year.
McAvenia graduated from Otay Ranch in 2010. She attended Southwestern College and then CSU East Bay (formerly CSU Hayward) where she earned a degree in environmental science. She spent three months monitoring the melting rate of permafrost in Alaska as part of her studies.
She’s played roller hockey only sporadically since then.
McElroy, a 2007 EHS graduate, was a top scorer for the Titans — rivals to the Mustangs — during his playing days. Eastlake finished runner-up to the Scripps Ranch Falcons in the conference championship game his freshman year in 2003-04.
McElroy played one season of collegiate roller hockey at Cal Poly Pomona. He appeared in 11 games for the Broncos during the 2007-08 season.
The school has recently revived the program after a five-year hiatus.
The rink reunion of referees has former foes now skating on the same team.
“I think Zack was a senior when I was a freshman,” McAvenia said. “Those were good times.” They still are.