Roller hockey club hits the ice for the first time

Freshman John Lettieri skates away from FIU defense on Saturday, March 5, 2011 during the first University of Miami Ice Hockey game. UM beat FIU 11-3. Brittney Bomnin//Art Director

When one thinks of Miami, the sport of ice hockey is not what typically comes to mind. But tell that to the members of UM’s roller hockey club!

On Saturday, the Hurricanes faced off against the newly formed FIU team in the club’s first ever ice hockey game.

“We were all really excited about it,” said Ryan MacDonald, a right wing forward for Miami. “We’ve been pushing for this for awhile.”

The club was approached by FIU and a local hockey league about trading their wheels in for blades for a night.

“Lots of us are old ice hockey guys,” team captain Brad Armas said.

Armas grew up nearby, playing ice hockey alongside several members of the FIU team. Saturday’s game was the first time they’d played against each other. But these friendships did not change the nature of the game.

Things got off to a fast start, with Armas scoring the first goal of the game before a minute of play time had elapsed. FIU fought back with a goal of their own before UM took the lead for good. The Canes scored twice more in the first period.

Miami’s offense exploded in the second period with six goals. The defense stayed strong as well, with goalies Alex Lopez and Joey Cimaglia making a number of phenomenal saves each to hold FIU scoreless. Despite having three players to FIU’s five after two penalties, the Canes still managed to successfully protect their net.

FIU mounted their first real offense in the third period, but even with their two goals they fell far short. The Hurricanes won by a final score of 11-3.

Miami went into the game as the odds on favorite. According to Chris Johnson, UM senior and one of the officials for the game, FIU doesn’t have a roller hockey club. Johnson expected Miami’s recent roller hockey experience to give them an edge.

Because of the high cost of ice time and the trek to the rink, Miami had limited practice time leading up to the game. However, the team is very pleased with their performance.

“Any time you can beat a big rival like FIU by 8 goals in front of their fans is great,” said club president Alex Lopez. “They are the little brother in this rivalry and it was our job to make sure that they knew that big brother will always win.”

Whether or not ice hockey will occur regularly is still unknown, though future events could be in the works.

“This is something the underclassmen have to support,” Armas said. “But it’s a nice way to end for [us] seniors.”

The idea certainly has support from others as well. The ice time for the game was donated and there was scarcely an empty seat in the house. Fans of both schools came in droves to Kendall Ice Arena to scream their support for their respective teams.

Freshman Brooke Davis went to support several friends on the team, though she had never been to a hockey game before.

“I wish we had a rink on campus!” she said.

Whether a one time event or the prelude to many more, the players are happy with the experience for themselves and the local hockey community.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Armas said.