Rags-to-riches club takes home championship

The University of Miami’s roller hockey club won the Division II Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships, defeating Florida Gulf Coast 4-3.

“I cant believe we did it,” club president Alex Lopez said. “It’s just amazing. I really can’t even put it into words how amazing it is to bring a national championship to your school. Unbelievable.”

The tournament took place from April 6-10 in Middleton, Wisc. The team fundraised and paid its own way to nationals. An ice hockey game against FIU was a part of these efforts. Miami won that contest 11-3 in front of a crowd of over 400.

The story of the roller hockey club is a true rags-to-riches tale.

“We had no equipment, our jerseys were a joke, the future of the club was in jeopardy,” Lopez said of the club’s status when he and captain Brad Armas took control two years ago.

The two started from scratch, meeting with Rhonda DuBord, the associate director of club sports, for hours on end to try and save the club. Their hard work paid off, as the club was named “Most Improved Club” at the Club Sports Awards Banquet last spring.

This season started out in mediocre fashion with a record of 9-9-2. From there, however, the team went on to win seven straight games on the road to the national championship.

“We just peaked at the right time, played our best hockey at the right time,” Lopez said. “All of the little things that we were doing wrong throughout the season that were costing us games, we just out of nowhere stopped doing them, did everything the right way and played the best seven games of hockey that we’ve played in our club’s history.”

At nationals, the Canes first faced off against UC Berkeley and East Carolina, winning 5-1 and 7-4, respectively. Their win against Bethel University in the semifinals was a bittersweet moment, with Jake Shuman scoring the winning goal. Shuman and his brother Josh, who is also on the team, lost their mother over spring break in a shooting incident.

Miami was 2-2 in the past against Florida Gulf Coast, but got the upper hand in the finals to take home the trophy.

“It was just ecstasy,” Armas said. “We got to where I thought we were going to be. Where we should be, rather. It’s been a fantastic high. It’s just been a wonderful experience, and I’m glad to have reached the point where I’ve seen the club go.”

Darci Miller may be contacted at dmiller@themiamihurricane.com