UCSD Roller Hockey Ends Record Season With Top-Eight Finish at Nationals

    The UCSD men’s club roller hockey team concluded its best year ever with a strong finish, placing in the top eight in the national tournament in Morrisville, N.C., on April 8 by beating three out of the five teams it faced.

    Billy Wong/Guardian file
    The roller hockey team’s self-motivating methods paid dividends all season, as it lost only three games in an otherwise impressive campaign.

    The team defeated Ball State Unversity 6-5, Washington Missouri University 7-6 and Hofstra University 6-3. The Tritons also earned a 4-4 tie against the University of Maine, but lost to State University of New York at Brockport in only their third loss of the season. The 6-3 defeat eliminated UCSD from the tournament, sealing the top-eight finish.

    After the game, many of the Triton players felt the loss was deserved.

    “We were outplayed and some injuries to our goalie and Brandon Chew kind of demoralized us,” freshman forward Richard Ewing said. “We didn’t play our game and got stuck trying to play catch-up.”

    UCSD came out firing with two goals by sophomore Brandon Chew within the first five minutes of play. Shortly afterward, sophomore captain and coach Brian Keefe received a penalty, putting Brockport on the power play. Brockport took advantage and notched its first score of the game. Another penalty, handed to UCSD freshman Jeff Ponton, allowed Brockport to score another goal, giving it the momentum needed to hold down the Triton offense.

    “We did a good job at cycling the puck in their zone and got lots of shots, but their goalie was amazingly good,” Keefe said. “We started to get nervous and people started trying to take the game into their own hands. The other team had more odd man rushes because we were focused too much on offense, and had a loss of drive towards the end.”

    Though the loss was brutal, the Tritons felt a sense of pride for making it as far as they did and facing such high-caliber teams in comparison to their regional opponents. Not being able to practice the skills and endurance necessary to face the national teams with local games made it all the more difficult for UCSD.

    “The competition was definitely a step up,” Ewing said. “Every team was as good or better than the best teams we had matched up against during the season, so we had to play our best at all times. There was never a time we could slack off.”

    Keefe also sensed a direct improvement in the team from the year before.

    “Last year, we were out in the first round; this year we made it through the second round, and next year we will go even further,” he said. “We were definitely top four from what we saw, we just didn’t pull it together in the playoff game. We are losing one senior, Ryan Fisher, but the core of our team is sophomores and we got some new freshman who have really been picking it up on their game so it will only go up from here.”

    A championship hockey title seems on the horizon, and more importantly, according to the Tritons, respect in the hockey community is also forthcoming.

    “We are still a young team,” sophomore Robin Fago said. “But we proved to everyone that we are a serious team and definitely pose a threat to the next championship.”

    One element the Tritons hope will contribute to deeper play in championships next season is bringing in a coach, instead of being student-run. Keefe, the captain, admitted that he struggled in the position, feeling the rifts that it caused in the team might’ve been remedied by an authority figure.

    “We need someone older, a man of more respect,” Keefe said. “A coach will be able to see things during games that captains can’t because we are also trying to focus on our own game. It’s too hard to be a coach and a friend, to hold their respect and obedience and be at their level at the same time because each requires different components and I just can’t do it all.”

    The season was full of highs and lows that only served to build stronger foundations for a better team to come.

    Keefe, arguably the most fit to represent the team, sums up the Tritons’ development with a recent memory following their loss to Brockport.

    “Everyone seemed to realize how far we had come,” he said. “We had not expected to be so up to par with the teams we faced, since most of our players had never played in such a high quality tournament. Nobody was blaming anyone for the loss, we were all just there for each other. When we messed up, we messed up as a team, and when we won, we won as a team.”

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