In the opening moments of the Summer D Division Adult League at Skate Safe America in Old Bethpage, New York, victory was far from certain for the Rocky River Bay Dogs.
The team spent most of the first three minutes hemmed in its own zone, with signs of rust consistent with a group that hasn’t played since April. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, the Bay Dogs snapped back into their true form of the dominant Stony Brook Seawolves roller hockey team, scoring four times in less than 10 minutes en route to a 6-2 victory on July 15.
With no games scheduled until Columbus Day weekend and training camp still six weeks away, some teams would use their remaining time off for relaxation before heading into another 32-game schedule. However, the Seawolves, who finished four wins shy of a second National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) title this spring in Fargo, North Dakota, realize that hard work now can prove fruitful in the long run.
“This is actually the first year we did [a summer league],” Assistant Coach Justin Corbo said. “We chose to do it because we wanted to get everyone in shape. Luckily it starts now because we start training camp the second we get back to school. We want to get the kids skating and that’s the main focus point.”
The summer squad consists of nine out of Stony Brook’s 11 2018-19 DII players. Corbo, who just completed a three-year stint as captain before joining the coaching staff, is also playing in the summer league along with a few non-roster players. While they may be facing off against recreation-level competition, Corbo sees the league as a chance to get a jump start on what he expects to be a successful regular season.
“We’re going to be really good this year,” Corbo said. “Usually we assume we’re going to make Nationals. This year we should be top three in the country. I’m confident saying that now so hopefully the final product once we start [the season] is going to be awesome.”
This season Corbo will be trading places with graduate defenseman James Loglisci, who completed his undergraduate degree at Stony Brook in 2017. Like Corbo, Loglisci moved behind the bench to continue his time with the Seawolves. Now, after a one-season hiatus, he will lace up the skates once again to take on the captaincy.
Loglisci also has high hopes for his team, even saying that going undefeated in the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (ERCHA) is a realistic goal.
“I think it’s a possibility,” Loglisci said. “If Northeastern’s still [in DII] with us, that’s going to be the toughest game.”
Northeastern qualified for last year’s championship game before losing to the Rochester Institute of Technology, but Stony Brook expects to dress a team capable of skating with both schools and contending for the team’s first national championship since 2007.
If the level of intensity put forth during the Seawolves’ first summer game is any indication, effort will not be an issue for the team. Stony Brook displayed an efficient transition game, generated quality scoring chances and played strong in its defensive zone.
There are notable differences between the summer league and the NCRHA, the biggest being that teams play 5-on-5 instead of 4-on-4 like they do in collegiate roller hockey. Offside rules and puck standards also differ, but senior goalie Rory Buckley says success in the summer should be a positive indicator for the regular season.
“I think it’s probably a good sign,” the two-time ECRHA DII Goalie of the Year said. “We didn’t get a lot of shot-blocking last year but James has always been pretty good about laying in front of shots. We’ve been a pretty small team these past few years and we’re starting to get some real size on the blue line so I think that will help us overall.”
If success now does translate into the start of the season, the team’s 6-2 season-opening win could be a sign of good things to come for Stony Brook. For now, however, the Seawolves are focused on earning a summer league championship as the Rocky River Bay Dogs.
“We’ve talked about a summer team for years but we’ve never done it,” Corbo said. “We always come up with ideas of how to rename the team and we ended up with that one… If we’re trailing at any point you’re going to see us get mad, we feel that we can have fun and not lose one of these games.”
The Bay Dogs will finish their summer schedule in mid-August before switching back to the Seawolves for the start of training camp.