The Smithtown-Hauppauge hockey team is heading to the national stage.
The Bulls, who participate in USA Hockey’s New York State Amateur Hockey Association, secured the state title on March 3 and will compete in the Division II national championships beginning March 28 in Mentor, Ohio. (Ice hockey is not recognized as a varsity sport by Section XI, Suffolk’s governing body of athletics.)
Smithtown-Hauppauge (17-2-1), which draws from Smithtown East, Smithtown West and Hauppauge high schools, also won the state title in 2016.
Ethan Boehm, who scored a team-leading 24 goals and 42 points, expects a strong showing.
“We’re feeling pretty good going into nationals,” said Boehm, a senior from Smithtown East. “Obviously the teams there are going to be pretty good and a lot different than what we’re used to. But if we stick to our system, put the puck in deep, I think we’ll be pretty successful.”
The Bulls take on the Waterloo, Iowa, Warriors at 4 p.m. March 28 to begin round-robin play in the Liberty bracket. They play their second and third games the next two days.
Coach Vincent Granice said the team’s 7-4 victory in the state title game helped prepare them for the pressure that lies ahead. The Bulls were tied 3-3 entering the third period before pulling away.
“It’s a great feeling to get onto the national stage,” Granice said. “This team should feel that it’s one of the best. We’ve had some adversity but we’ve overcome it.
“This is a great experience, a lifetime experience. Members of the 2016 team still talk about and believe it’s one of the greatest feelings they’ve ever had.”
Senior left wing Joe Foray (Smithtown East) said he’s living out his dreams in making it to the national championships.
“Playing hockey my whole life, winning a state championship and going to nationals were always dreams of mine,” Foray said. “And now that I get to do this with some of my best friends it’s unbelievable.”
Junior defenseman Christian Young (Smithtown West) knows this ride is one he and his teammates will never forget.
“It would be something that we would talk about for years to come,” Young said. “It’s something not many people can get to accomplish.”