What could’ve been a lost season for the Long Beach varsity hockey team turned into a two week undefeated stretch that culminated into the Marine’s second consecutive Nassau County championship and third in that last four years.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the hockey season was shortened to two weeks and started in April instead of the winter months.
The Marines, who only had about four practice sessions, took full advantage of the short season. They put on impressive performances in their first three games of the season, before facing a tough adversary in the Bellmore/Merrick Bulldogs in the fourth game of the season.
The Marines were down 2-0 in the third period before junior Jack Dodd put them on the scoreboard. Senior Shane Murphy followed with two late goals to seal the win for the Marines. However, that wasn’t the last time they would see the Bulldogs.
“That was probably one of the best games of the tournament,” Coach Keith Casey said. “I’ve been with the program for just about 15 years and that’s right up there in the top three or five games to be in.”
Casey and first-year coach Noel Henck ran the team this year.
Just two days later, a few hours after defeating the Syosset Varsity Hockey Team 4-3 in a tough battle, the Marines and Bulldogs faced off again in the final game.
The game was held at the Northwell Health Ice Arena at Eisenhower Park on April 25. The Marines went down in the second period, but senior Hunter Honan equalized on a power play. Just a few minutes later, senior Jack Gannon sealed the Marines’s third county championship with a winning goal.
“As long as we stayed five on five and rolled on three, we would be fine,” Casey said about the team’s strategy going into the final game. “These guys being so resilient, they never felt pressured or squeezed.”
Casey praised the core of seniors, who have been together since freshman year, which led the team to another championship. Graduating seniors Ronan Judge, Shane Murphy, Jack Ganno, Anthony “Nino” Scarpella, Hunter Honan and Kieran Byrne played their final game for the Marines.
Though the team lost the county championship in 2019, they have won the majority of their games. Casey attributed the success to strong defense and great goaltending by Byrne, who started since his sophomore year.
“It would’ve been really nice to have completed for our third straight state title,” Casey said. “This is probably one of the deepest and strongest teams that we’ve ever had.”
Though the state championships were canceled this year, parents and spectators praised the team’s performance and effort.
“Watching my son and his teammates play hockey over the last four years has brought myself and my family so much joy with memories,” Colleen Murphy, whose son Shane Murphy is playing his final year, said. “I will never forget. Go Beach!”
Casey also praised his predecessors who built the program and set the expectations high.
“Long Beach is a strong program and we expect to contend for a county and state championship every year,” Casey said. Though he lamented the departure of the graduating seniors, Casey said that he believes the team is in good hands with the upcoming juniors.
“The future looks promising as always,” Casey said. “Every year we get freshmen that can’t wait to get into that mix.”