Roller hockey program expanding

    As professional ice hockey prepares to return to the rink after a yearlong absence, the UCSD club roller hockey team is lacing up for its upcoming season after a trip to the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association Championship Tournament last year.

    Billy Wong/Guardian
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    The roller hockey team is actually made up of two to three different teams, an A team and at least one B team. All teams compete at tournaments against the same schools, but the A team faces other A teams and the B team faces other B teams. This season there could be enough players to create a second B team.

    The A team is headed by sophomore player-coach Brian Keefe, who led the team to a second-place 19-8-2 record last season and to the West Coast Roller Hockey League Regional Championship, where the Tritons lost to the defending champs, University of Nevada, Reno.

    Led by head coach Chris Armour, last year’s B team went 3-13, but still had a strong enough squad to make it to Regionals. However, a lack of players willing to travel to these tournaments left the Tritons at a disadvantage during the playoffs.

    Last year’s accomplishments were a surprise, as the team was founded in 2002 and has little history at UCSD. According to Armour, the team has been slowly improving since its inaugural season and is always looking to expand the program.

    “When we first started four years ago, the team was below .500,” Armour said. “The next year we were .500. Last year we were one of the top teams and this year expectations are to get Team A into Nationals and Team B into Regionals. So it has really grown every year.”

    Getting there will require a lot of commitment from the players, Armour said. This is no easy requirement to fill, as players must pay to play on the club team and commit to travel to tournaments in places such as Fort Collins, Colo., the host of last year’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association Championship Tournament.

    “We need more commitment out of the A team players to get to Nationals,” Armour said. “We got a big turnout, so hopefully we can pick up some quality skaters. With the B team, it’s just a matter of the commitment to get everybody to show up to tournaments again.”

    Tournaments might not be a problem anymore after the turnout on the first night of tryouts.

    “We’ve got plenty of skaters and if we can run two B teams, that’s great,” Armour said. “That means we’ve got a big enough program to keep it going. It would be great to have at least one of them be really competitive and make it to Regionals.”

    Armour also has long-term goals for roller hockey at UCSD.

    “If we can maintain a lot of the work, there will be more and more people coming out and there will be more and more competition,” Armour said. “If we are successful for a couple years, we’d like to move up to Division I and skate with the bigger schools.”

    Although a move to Division-I doesn’t seem to be in the near future, the team has some more immediate goals for the upcoming season.

    “We’d like to maintain one quality level A team and get enough skaters on to it where we have enough to really run lines fast enough like we need to,” Armour said. “And if we can get two B teams running, that feeds into the A team the following year.”

    Although they were only a third-year team at UCSD, the Tritns pulled off some impressive wins over some big-name schools last season, including two blowout wins over the University of Southern California. The one school that no one seemed to be able to beat last year, Reno, is the team the Tritons have their sights set on. Despite their impressive finish, Reno remains a sizable roadblock for the Tritons come tournament time.

    “Reno killed everybody at Nationals and they’re back again and probably even a stronger team,” Armour said. “So they’ll be the strongest team in the nation I’m sure.”

    Right now, the team is still holding tryouts in order to assess who belongs in the limited spots on the A team and who will play on the B team. However, one tournament is scheduled before the rosters are even to be released. The teams will travel to the Anaheim Hockey Club on Oct. 22 to start the season and at the pace the program is going, they will look to take an early lead in the WCRHA standings.

    “We want to finish first in the west coast this year,” senior captain Thi Tran said.

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