It's fitting that Long Beach's nickname is the Marines, considering the way the team stormed the Suffolk ice hockey league in its first season as a member. The top squad in the league all year, the Marines capped the campaign with a county title, and that likely would have been enough to render 2010-11 a success. The state championship they won last weekend was just icing on the cake.
Long Beach swept Arlington in USA Hockey's best-of-three Pure Division State Championships to capture its first state title since 2005, when it was in the Nassau league. The Pure Division is made up of teams drawing members from a single school district, while the Open Division comprises teams drawing members from multiple districts.
"This whole season became something that if you scripted if, you couldn't have scripted it any better," coach Joe Brand said. "Each time the kids got on the ice, it looked like they got a little better. And not only in terms of talent, but in terms of playing for one another."
The Marines won a close 8-7 decision on March 4, before putting Arlington away, 9-1, on March 5.
"I don't think they could have played any better in thatdeciding game," Brand said. "It was as close to a perfect hockey game as I've witnessed in my life."
Connetquot/Sayville went 3-0 in round-robin play beforefacing Kings Park/Commack in the championship game on March 6. The two teams had previously played earlier in the day during the last game of the round-robin schedule.
"One of the most difficult things to do is beat a team twice in a row, unless you're significantly better than them," coach Bruce Kollmar said. "And Kings Park is a very good team. I was a little concerned we might be overconfident."
Connetquot/Sayville took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 early, but Kings Park/Commack came back to tie the score. However, Andrew Gonzalez scored twice in the third period and Connetquot/Sayville held on for a 4-2 win.
Frank Dichiara, who tied for the league lead in points with 55 and switched to defense midway through the season, had two assists.
Bellmore/Merrick lost a 4-3 decision to St. Peter's in the AAU Large School final in Buffalo to end its year as the state runner-up, the first time since the program became a school sponsored sport that the team has made the final.
After going 2-0-1 in round robin play, Bellmore/Merrick defeated St. Joseph's, 2-1, in overtime to advance.
"It was a little bit of redemption," said coach Chris Patten, whose team lost to Massapequa in two games in the Nassau final. "We're graduating 12 seniors, so a lot of boys realized this was going to be the last time they put on this uniform. This tournament brought out the best of them both on and off the ice."