After a disappointing loss in the West Coast Hockey Conference championship game, the Long Beach State hockey club is beginning the season looking for a chance at redemption.
Last season ended on a great run, but the team was unable to seal the deal against CSUN losing 4-3, leaving the Beach yearning for another shot at being kings of the ice.
“We fell a little short winning the WCHC title, so the goal is to win that this year, take it away from CSUN,” head coach Sean Hoang said. “They’re our biggest rival.”
With the team already having a slight taste of success, they know what they have to do to get over the hump.
“We lost some pretty big hitters and top-scoring guys,” said second-year member Ryan Osterkamp. “So I’m expecting some of the guys to be able to step up, including myself.”
Without former top scorer and team leader Luke Miller, CSULB hockey will be looking to replace his production on the ice.
“We have a good-good-good core of kids, they all love each other,” coach Hoang said. “We got a couple freshmen…a couple goalies, we got a good core coming in, but we got a good core that came back.”
One of those returning members is fourth-year player Francis Lemay from Montreal, Canada, who is excited about the team’s roster this season.
“We’re going to have a solid four lines,” Lemay said. “Last year, we had a star player who used to play NCAA and we heavily relied on him. This season, we’re going to have a lot of depth. Not just one line doing the work, we’re going to have three or four.”
With new players joining the roster, the team is working on building a camaraderie with a mixture of hard work and humor.
One way the team bonds is by having a shoot out every Wednesday morning practice, leaving the last player left to not score with the reward of eating whatever nasty concoction the rest of the team cooks up.
This past week’s mixture consisted of clam juice, sardines and ghost pepper sauce.
Osterkamp said another way the team has grown together is through their brotherhood and collective love of the game.
“Just being around the guys,” Osterkamp said. “Just the locker room and being on the bench with them. I mean playing is fun, scoring is fun and all that, but as long as you have good teammates, you’re going to have a good time out here.”
But even with this laidback and playful environment within the team, they still prefer a blue-collar, hard-nosed attack on the ice.
“I’d like to be the team that takes shit from no one,” Hoang said. “I want everyone to know that they’re going to be in for a [world of] hurt when they play Long Beach. I want to be physical this year and put up a lot of points.”
Newly painted in the locker room, every member has bought into the team’s motto this season— “Be relentless. Be ruthless. Be respected”
The team hopes to echo this bold statement on the ice as well.
“I expect nothing but good things, Osterkamp said. “I hope we make it exactly to where we made it to last year, the finals, but instead of losing I hope we win.”
With championship aspirations for the year and a set goal ahead of them, the CSULB hockey club hopes for more support from the student body.
“Not that many people know that there’s a Long Beach [hockey] team, and [it] kind of fell off when I graduated,” Hoang said. “When [my brother and I] played, the stands were filled with fans. It was packed.”
So what does Hoang have to say to the students at the Beach?
“If they want to see the toughest sport in the world, come check it out.”
The Long Beach State hockey club will hold its home games at The Rinks – Lakewood ICE in Lakewood beginning in late September with discounted tickets for students at $5.