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Stony Brook team pulls out of tournament

Team caption Derek Blatchley, number 86, leads the

Team caption Derek Blatchley, number 86, leads the Stony Brook University Roller Hockey team through warm up exercises at The Sports Arena, St. James. (Apr. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Derek Blatchley's senior season as captain of the Stony Brook University roller hockey team was shaping up like a dream, with the team headed to Salt Lake City to compete for a national championship.

Then, the Seawolves, a club team at the university, were put in check by a change in student government bylaws, rendering them unable to use student fees to fly to the tournament at Utah Olympic Oval.

Having backed out after accepting an invite, the Stony Brook squad is missing the championships and facing possible sanctions -- including fines and suspension -- from the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association.

"Every year, I've looked forward to going to the national tournament and competing against some of the best players in the country," said Blatchley of Bellmore, one of 30 club members. "It kind of stinks that I'm ending my senior season and I can't complete that."

Stony Brook's regular season record of 12 wins, four losses and two ties qualified it as one of the 24 Division I teams invited to the tournament, said Brennan Edwards, executive director of the California-based NCRHA.

The team had hoped to use student activity fees -- which all Stony Brook students pay -- to fund its trip to Salt Lake City for championship play that begins on Wednesday.

The trip would have cost about $5,300 total, members said. But Stony Brook's University Student Government changed bylaws in September, after another club abused airfare funds last year, said Stephanie Berlin, vice president for communications for the student government.

Blatchley said the hockey club petitioned for a change to the bylaws, but it was not approved in time for the club to book its flight. It remains under consideration. The roller hockey team announced on March 22 that it was withdrawing from the tournament, he said.

North Carolina State University replaced the Seawolves, Edwards said.

Edwards said the club could face disciplinary action for dropping out of the tournament. "When you accept the bid, you are required to make payments and participate, and dropping out at a late date makes it hard to find an alternate team," Edwards said.

Berlin said the team's inability to attend the championships is "heartbreaking," but they were told about the new airfare rule months ago. "Everyone was made aware of it," she said.

The setback is painful for the team, which had qualified for the national tournament five years in a row, said senior player and team treasurer Harrison Last of Bellmore. The team has twice made it to the second round of the five-round tournament, in 2009 and 2010. Last said he has played the fast-paced game -- which pits teams of four against each other -- since high school. The season typically lasts from October to March, and this year Stony Brook scored wins against such top schools as Rowan University and the University at Buffalo.

Last said he's concerned about what disciplinary action could mean for the Stony Brook program. "For future years, even if we're really good, we could still lose our bid for national because we can't be relied upon," he said.

The university's hierarchy isn't getting involved in the dispute, said Jerrold L. Stein, dean of students, in a statement. "We congratulate the Roller Hockey Club in its many accomplishments," he said.

Blatchley said the club feels burned by the university. "We were kind of banking on the school to kind of support us for this tournament," he said.

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