The Cal Poly Club Roller Hockey club team qualified as one of 16 Division II teams for the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships in Rochester, New York from April 10–14.
The Mustangs will roll into Rochester with 16 wins, three losses, two overtime losses and a Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League (WCRHL) title. Spirits are high for the Mutangs, with team members saying they believe their shot at bringing a national title to San Luis Obispo is at an all-time high.
“We just have a great group of guys,” senior forward Danny Kumata, who is also team captain and club president, said. “Honestly, the competition isn’t, frankly, what it used to be. We’re better equipped than ever with the guys we have right now.”
Kumata scored a hat trick against Cal State Fullerton, contributing to the Mustangs’ 7-1 victory in the final of the WCRHL Championship in Corona, California. Throughout the season, Kumata has led the team in assists with 25. He also had 19 goals and has a team-leading 44 points.
Winning the WCRHL title against the Titans was revenge for the Mustangs, due to the team’s previous two losses against Cal State Fullerton earlier in the season.
“Going into the championship, since there was so much on the line, we just had everyone on board,” senior forward Alex Waddel said.
Waddel had one goal and three assists in the championship game against the Titans. His 21 goals this season were the most of any Mustang.
“The energy was just flying around for the team [and] everyone was upbeat,” Waddel said. “From the start of the game, we just jumped on them and just played a great game.”
One of those key players in the title-clinching game was sophomore goalie Nicholas Leacox. Leacox saved 17 out of 18 shot attempts against the Titans. His save percentage this season is among the best in the division at .847, and he has a 2.80 goals against average as well.
Since Cal Poly was relegated from Division I this season due to league re-structuring, the regional championship meant more to the team than just a trophy.
“We definitely felt like we had something to prove all season,” Waddel said. “We have a great team that can definitely play with the top division too, so we felt like we really needed to dominate the new division we’re in now.”
Winning the regional title and qualifying to nationals was likely on every player’s mind this season. Anything less than a WCRHL championship would not have sufficed for the team.
“I don’t want to sound conceited, but [winning the WCRHL title] is sort of what we wanted and expected from the start,” freshman defenseman Sam Blakewell said.
Blakewell has played in all 16 games so far this season, and has averaged more than one assist per game. His 17 assists and 10 goals make him the team’s third-highest point scorer this season. “All the puzzle pieces fell together,” Blakewell said. “It just went exactly to plan.”
With the Mustangs’ jigsaw puzzle solved, the team embarks on a race for the prize to be crowned the best roller hockey team in the nation. Most of that, according to Kumata, will be determined by how cohesive each team’s chemistry is. The club president is confident in his team’s unity and how well it will translate in Rochester.
“It’s just unique chemistry,” Kumata said. “Just the way we play together. We know each other’s styles now. It’s definitely getting down to how well the chemistry of each team breaks down in nationals, and I think we definitely have one of the best in the country.”
The Mustangs’ first game in pool play is against Kennesaw State on April 10 at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Time. Cal Poly will then take on Stony Brook later that evening at 6:45 p.m. and cap off play in Pool A against Massachusetts on April 11 at 5:45 p.m.