TORRANCE — A standing-room-only crowd spilling out of the stands at the Skating Edge Ice Arena erupted in cheers as the announcer introduced the LMU Lions club ice hockey team for the first time in their long-anticipated season opener against Cal State Long Beach.
The Lions came out slow to begin the game, unable to develop plays offensively and staging a lackluster defensive effort. Long Beach’s unrelenting offensive pressure and interior penetration out of the gate scored their team two unanswered goals in the first. However, the Lions mounted a small comeback near the end of the first period when forwards Connor Kazmerack and Chris Manzer capitalized on a pair of fastbreaks off of steals, scoring twice. Combined with a herculean effort from goalie Colton Marcy, who fended off a barrage of shots from Long Beach, the goals allowed the Lions to enter the locker room knotted up at two a piece with their opponent.
While the team was somewhat disappointed about their slow start, it wasn’t unexpected.
“We were rusty and we knew that we would be going into it,” said head coach Jack Hyman. “We hadn’t practiced for a couple weeks because the rink wasn’t ready. So, first off, we’re fortunate the game actually took place.”
The Lions exploded out of the locker room to open the second period, scoring three unanswered goals. A quick Manzer tuck-in from behind the net, followed by a similar score from forward Adam Nishino and a point shot from forward Bryson Martin, put the Lions up 5-2.
“We came out real rocky and just gave up two,” said forward Gabi Rodriguez. “But we came out into that second period buzzing, and that just showed me we have such a deep roster with a lot of skill, so we just need to practice and put the work in and we can be special.”
The Lions finished out the game with a 6-2 victory over Cal State Long Beach.
“I’m proud of the guys, they came out here with a massive crowd and all of the expectations in the world,” said general manager Tyler Goeckner-Zoeller. “I think it ended up being a really good night for the team.”
The opening night victory comes on of the heels of the program’s best season in recent memory, which included a 19-7-1 record, a West Coast Hockey Conference (WCHC) league championship and an American Collegiate Hockey Conference (ACHA) Regional appearance. That 2021–2022 campaign was the team’s fourth straight year with a winning record.
From 2005-2017, the club boasted only one season in which they substantially exceeded the 0.500 win percentage mark. The revamped Lions have broken that streak of general mediocrity and firmly established themselves as annual contenders through the past four campaigns.
“Last year was the first year we won the league and we plan on doing that again,” said Hyman. “We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, and so key number one is having all of our guys locking in as a unit, and key number two is coming prepared for every match — just not taking any games off. We do that and we’ll win some games.”
The Lions play San José State University on Sept. 30.
Photo: Caleb Park