Long Beach’s Best Kept Secret

Mike SalernoCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2008


What? Hofstra has an ice hockey team?

Well, you won’t see them on ESPNU facing off with the likes of Michigan or Boston College any time soon, but contrary to popular belief, Hofstra University does in fact have an ice hockey club team.

Oh, it’s a club team. Well why should I care the slightest bit about a club team when we’ve got all these successful varsity teams here at Hofstra? Oh my, you’ve got me there. I mean, who needs hockey when you’ve got a basketball team who can’t stop beating themselves?

Don’t forget the football team, either. They fooled everyone with a 6-0 start that had us all pinning our hopes on Division 1-AA playoffs. Anyone remember the score of their first significant home game of the season? They lost in dramatic fashion, 40-3.

Wait, you do mean hockey, like real hockey? So, none of that no-contact roller blading around type of stuff, right?

Yes, real hockey with real contact. In case you haven’t noticed (and judging by the low attendance numbers at the Arena of Long Beach, you haven’t), the men’s ice hockey club team has risen to a national championship contender in Division 3 of the American Club Hockey Association.

 Since his arrival two years ago, head coach Ian Clugston has brought the team from the cellar of their conference to a program that is garnering recognition nationally.

The team plays at the Arena of Long Beach, roughly 15 minutes from campus. Admission to games is free of charge for everyone, not just Hofstra students.

Well, why would I go all the way to Long Beach to see college hockey when I can go next door to see NHL-caliber hockey with the Islanders?

Hmm, another good question. Well can I answer your question with a question? I suppose I just did. Where’s that sense of school pride? Plenty of students have no trouble going to support our dreadful hoops squad, why not hockey? Not to mention, I’m not sure if you’ve been watching lately, but the Islanders aren’t the most exciting team in the NHL.

Check out a game. Once. You’ll be hooked. Whatever you like, this team’s got it. You want flair? Watch forwards Dan Lio and Craig Zecca weave through opposing defenders like traffic cones.

Had enough scoring and looking for some contact? Defensive bruisers Alex Nucera and Jonathan Morello won’t disappoint. Regardless of what style of play you’re looking for, the grit and tenacity every player shows throughout each game is enough to make you proud they’re representing your school.

Hockey’s pretty expensive from what I hear. They must get a ton of funding from the school to even be able to play, right?

Hardly. In fact, the team barely scrapes by with money granted by the school to pay for ice time in Long Beach. Despite the pathetically low funding given by the school, this year’s team reached new heights and qualified for the Regional tournament in Warwick, Pennsylvania. There they played for a chance to earn a spot in the National Championship tournament in Rochester, Minnesota to be held later this month.

Instead of taking a team bus to the tournament and other venues throughout the season, the guys were forced to split up into cars and get there by whatever means necessary. Though they lost the first game at Regionals, the Pride defeated Robert Morris University the following day in a 6-5 shootout thriller.

Goaltender Steve Pace stopped all three RMU shooters to seal the victory. Though they were knocked from National Championship contention, the win earned them an invitation to the National Showcase Tournament to be held in Roanoke, Virginia prior to the start of next season.

Okay, this sounds pretty cool. When’s the next game?

Unfortunately, the season ended last weekend in a 5-3 loss to Fairfield in the Metropolitan College Hockey Conference playoffs. But the team returns many key players to this year’s regional tournament run and are already gearing up to make a bid for the National tournament next year.

Wow, that’s pretty impressive. Too bad the season’s all done now. Can you let me know when the schedule comes out for next year?

Oh, no problem. I’ve got a feeling you’ll be hearing from me as soon as it does.