ESPN did a study, recently, to see which sport was the “toughest.” After a group of sports scientists ranked a variety of skills necessary for each sport, the results showed that hockey was the second-toughest sport, only to boxing. With a sport as physically demanding as hockey, who wouldn’t want to see a group of guys come together and attempt a shot at perfection? No pain, no gain, they say.
For those who weren’t aware that ice hockey had much of a presence on the West Coast, a UC Davis team can be found on their home arena of Vacaville Ice Sports.
Led by coaches Stephen Lamers and Spenser Wagner, the UC Davis Ice Hockey Aggies have gone a perfect 10-0 through their first 10 games of the season.
When asked if he envisioned such a hot start, team captain Joey Koressel acknowledged that he knew the team had improved.
“I was expecting to be a little bit better so it’s been very surprising for me,” he said.
There are reasons to be surprised with the strong opening this year following a 4-11 record last season.
Wagner explained why this year’s team is different from the last.
“We have a lot of new players. The older players have grown a lot with the freshmen and transfers,” he said. “The team has played better once they got to know the system and has really improved as the season went along.”
After a dramatic win over top-ranked Santa Rosa Junior College 8-7 in their second game, the Aggies knew how big of a moment winning the gritty game was. After scoring four goals, Koressel understood the significance of what the team had accomplished.
“Our confidence rose right there and [we] knew we could beat anyone on our schedule and just went on a tear since then,” he said.
In their most recent game, the Aggies faced off against Santa Rosa Junior College in a rematch and easily won by a score of 12-4. With a 7-0 victory against Sacramento State sandwiched between the two SRJC games, the Aggies have won by an average of a little more than four goals per game.
Usually, when teams are able to pull off long winning streaks, they can attribute team chemistry as the prime factor. Per usual, it is easy to see their friendships outside of hockey translate into the success carried inside the rink.
“Everyone hangs out together. On the ice, we’re all great friends and pass each other the puck. No one’s selfish and everyone’s out for the team,” Koressel said.
Wagner played for this team as an undergrad and has an interesting take on his experience.
“[It’s] more fun coaching than playing,” he said.
The season is far from over, with 10 games remaining, but the close-knit group has the opportunity to go undefeated for the first time in school history.
As much as a perfect season would be an accomplishment, the team is more focused on making regionals and concentrated solely on its next opponent. The players and coaches understand that maintaining a “one game at a time” mentality will keep them grounded.
The Aggies’ next match comes on Jan. 11 at Chapman University and they will not compete again at home until the 19th, when they will face off against UC San Diego at 2:15 p.m. in Vacaville.
LUKE BAE can be reached at email@example.com.