When it comes to making sure a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Atlantic Ocean is as memorable as possible, sometimes one is willing to go to extremes. For Chris Joseph, it was his second time, but he was still trying to get the perfect shot when taking photographs on a cliff during his time in Spain.
“We climbed the fence and went to the edge of the cliff and took a ton of pictures looking out into the ocean,” the second-year World University Games Team USA player said. “The wind was so strong, I almost lost my backpack twice.”
He and fellow senior Sam Brewster were the two Stony Brook hockey players named to Team USA for the World University Games in Granada, Spain.
“Initially we got treated like professionals,” Brewster recalled. “To play in front of 8,000 people against the home country of Spain…it’s surreal.”
Joseph specifically recalled the quarterfinal matchup against Canada in which team USA skated out to the same number of people chanting “USA, USA, USA.” Sound familiar?
“It reminded me of the movie ‘Miracle,’” Joseph said. “When we played Canada, the place was packed and everybody was chanting USA. Everybody wanted us to win.”
The movie that portrays the USA’s 1980 hockey victory over the Soviet Union was being re-enacted right before their very eyes, and it left quite the impression. However, there was no Kurt Russell speech in the locker room.
“I can only imagine what it felt like after [the 1980 Olympic team] won that game,” Joseph said.
Even though this was not the Olympic Games and NBC was not everywhere, the sparkle of playing for Team USA did not change.
“I don’t know if there’s more of a peak than putting on a USA jersey,” Brewster said. “To get your name on the back of a Team USA jersey, there’s nothing better than it in the world.”
Even without the speech, or the times for that matter, the level of competition they were facing made it a comparable situation. Canada had six NHL draftees on their roster, with three players already having NHL entry-level contracts. With Russia and Kazakhstan also acting professional, there was a tall task ahead for these Seawolves and their Team USA teammates.
“The effort was expected.” Brewster said. “You had to go full tilt, 100 percent of the time, or it will be blatantly obvious that you aren’t.” However, the expectations of success were still there. “It became a point of emphasis to be successful against those teams,” Brewster added.
Team USA defeated the Kazakhstanians 3-2 in a shootout, but was not able to do the same against the Canadians, losing 4-0 in the quarterfinal bout. The Americans finished seventh in this year’s edition, worse than the first time that Joseph went with another senior on the Seawolves hockey roster, Ryan Cotcamp.
“Our team was more skilled this year, but we drew a harder card going into the quarters,” Joseph said. Joseph also added that going with Cotcamp in 2013 made things easier, but this year with Brewster, it was not the same feeling. “I was more relaxed,” he said.
With seven returning players, it also made the experience off the ice even better. But the language barrier? Not so much.
“Cafe con leche [coffee with milk] was all I knew,” Brewster said with a laugh. “I played in Germany and Sweden a couple summers. They at least spoke a little English.”
Joseph was not having too much luck with communicating with the locals either. “I took Spanish here last semester and it didn’t really help me too much,” he said while laughing as well. “I thought they were talking a thousand miles an hour.”
There was one place that was visited where communicating with the locals was not necessary to have a good time: the Mediterranean Sea.
“We got to be goofballs down there for a couple days,” Brewster said. For this forward-defenseman tandem, the season is not over. “We knew that as soon as that was over that we had to get ready,” Joseph said. The Seawolves had the ESCHL tournament one week ahead of them and then the ACHA Division I tournament just a week later.
The Seawolves took their conference, and are off to a good start in the national tournament, moving into the quarterfinals after a 1-0 victory over Rhode Island.
“It’s time to get back at it and bring home a national championship,” Joseph said.
Whether it was almost falling off a cliff or relaxing on the beach, there were many memorable occasions across the ocean that will forever be stamped on their senior season.
“You work your whole life to play a game,” Brewster said, putting it into perspective nicely. “When you work so hard for something and you get a chance to show it, really remember it and take it in and suck it up for all it’s worth because you don’t get a lot of those chances in life.”