The Long Beach Marines ice hockey squad’s impressive season continued this past weekend, as the boys took home the New York State Amateur Hockey Association’s state championship for club teams.
Newcomers to the Suffolk County High School Hockey League, the Marines (18-2) swept Hudson Valley’s Arlington Admirals (19-3) in two games at the Rinx in Hauppauge.
Unlike the nerve-wracking, come-from-behind victory on Friday night, the Long Beach dominated Arlington from the drop of the first puck in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we got a little bit caught up in the emotion of playing in a state championship series and forgot about playing defense,” said Marines head coach Joe Brand of his team’s 8-7 victory Friday night. “That’s not normally our game.”
The Admirals took a 7-4 lead heading into the third period of Game 1 before the Marines were able to clear their nerves and fall back into the rhythm of hockey that they’re more accustomed to playing.
Long Beach stormed back in the third, scoring four consecutive goals, none bigger than Evan Schwartz’ game-tying shot with four minutes remaining.
Schwartz picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and darted into Admirals’ territory uncontested, breaking down on goalie Chris Griffin, when he slid a puck through Griffin’s five-hole that put the Long Beach crowd in a frenzy.
“We know what we have to do to play better and I think them putting that type of scare into us will settle us right in,” Brand said of his team’s mentality heading into Game 2, which the Marines won 8-1.
The scare that the Admirals put into the Marines the previous night was indeed a wakeup call for the team.
The Marines started off with two boosts early on in the first period of Game 2: the first a mental boost stemming from killing off two consecutive penalties in the early stages; the second came in the form of a physical boost as captain Keegan Travers made his series debut midway through the first period.
Travers had missed the first game due to the playoffs with his Junior B team, New York Apple Core in Philadelphia.
The Marines’ special teams set the tone for the game right from the get-go, thwarting off any type of offensive momentum the Admirals would have liked to build with the early power plays.
“We’ve have a great group of penalty killers all year long,” Brand said. “We tell the guy that gets the penalty to take your medicine, sit down, we’ll kill this thing for you.”
Not only was their penalty kill clicking on all cylinders, but the power play cashed in on several opportunities as well.
The Marines put the first dent in the scoreboard while on the man advantage, when defensemen Aidan Salerno took a blistering slap shot from the left point passed Griffin with two minutes to go in the first period.
The Admirals went into the second period relatively unscathed, just down 1-0 even though the Marines were outshooting them 15-4.
“We had a little difficulty getting pucks in the net early on,” Brand said. “Once it got rolling we were in good shape.”
Rolling was an understatement — an avalanche was more like it.
After the Admirals knotted the game at one early in the second, the Marines had an offensive outburst.
Long Beach rattled off five-straight goals, all but closing the door on a deciding third game.
“We knew we had to get a lot of shots on net and finish,” said sophomore James Forkin.
Forkin led the Marines’ offensive charge, netting a hat trick in the second period.
“We just came out here and did what we had to do; we knew it was all business,” Forkin said of his team’s dominant victory. “We played Long Beach hockey.”
After winning the SCHSHL championship in its first season in the league, and now capturing the NYSAHA state club championships, the Marines have one more stop on their schedule: Illinois.
The Marines will travel to Bensenville at the end of March to compete in the USA Hockey High School National Championship, where they will once again be able to showcase “Long Beach” hockey.