The Best 5 Years of My Life
The date was November 20th 2010; it was an ECRHA regular season weekend at Skate Safe America. Growing up, playing and working at Skate Safe on Long Island, I got to learn a lot about roller hockey and all the different leagues and tournaments that exist. The one league I never knew a lot about was the NCRHA. With the ECRHA weekend coming up, my coach at the time Mike Scardigno, who played for Hofstra University, told me to come to the rink over the weekend to watch their Division 1 game against, out of conference, Tampa University. Tampa featured so many great Long Island players like Jeff Kotcher, PJ Catania, Sam Sherman, Chris Whelan, Rowan Porter and Coach Brett Kotcher. Hofstra had just as many great players like Chris Culot, Sean Beatty, Mike Scardigno, Pat Rosa, Jared Occhicone and Coach Jim Tamburino. As I watched this game from the packed out stands I couldn’t believe the pace of the game and the skill involved. It was a back and forth game that had highlight reel goals, intensity, fighting and everything you could possibly want in a game. The game ended in a 6–6 tie and it was in that moment at the end of the game that I knew I wanted to play college hockey.
Year 1- Fast-forward 2 years to my senior year of high school when I decided to commit to Farmingdale State College who at the time did not have a roller hockey team. My good friend Nick Lang and I decided that we wanted to start a program but did not know where to start; enter Steve Casazza. Steve seemed to already have some of the wheels in motion so that made it easy for Nick and I to join him to make this happen. We all started trying to recruit anyone that knew how to skate at the school just to ensure we had a team. What we came up with was myself, Nick, Steve, John Gunn, Joe Petrizzo, Mike Gonzalez, Eric Hansen, Pat Mcdonald, Nick Marcus, Christian Letourneau and goalie Andrew Alesi. Since we had taken so long to finalize everything, we did not get any funding from the school and had to pay for everything out of pocket. Any college student reading this right now is probably cringing at the thought of having to pay for an entire season out of pocket, but that was a sacrifice we had to make. The season in Division 2 featured many amazing games against Rutgers, Boston University, Slippery Rock and Saint Joseph’s. In our first year we got our first bid to nationals in Aston, Pennsylvania. Not knowing what to expect we went into our first nationals without any expectations. To everyone’s surprise we went 2–0–1 in the round robin and then proceeded to knock out Kansas State in the Sweet 16. Our Elite 8 matchup was against our ECRHA rival, Rutgers University, who we had lost to in both regular season games in overtime. And wouldn’t you know it, we lost to them yet again in overtime. It was a heartbreaking way to end the season but a great first experience.
Year 2- my second year didn’t get off to a great start when we found out the news that our friend and teammate Eric Hansen had passed away. This was a crushing way to start the season but we knew that he would want us to play the season with or without him. Over the summer we did some heavy recruiting adding players from our ice hockey team and players from Skate Safe such as Mike Tardino, Matt O’Shaughnessy, Chris Sharkey, Matt Catania, Dustin Muccio- Schrimpe, Mike Jennings, Shawn Post, Nick Walker, Will Anderson and Kevin Smalley. Also after about a year of convincing and begging, I was able to convince my lifelong friends Chris Russolello and Tim Janke to commit to Farmingdale, which was possibly, the best thing I have ever done for this program. Our club doubled in size in just one year. Going into the season, we were well aware of the talent we had and we expected to be the best team in the country. Losing just one game in the regular season and easily winning regionals, we went into nationals as the #1 team in D2. Nationals, in Independence, Missouri was one of my favorites because the location was great and we went a perfect 7–0 en route to winning a Division 2 National Championship. Winning a national championship is something special but doing it in a season that we dedicated to our friend and teammate that had passed away… priceless.
Year 3- We did it, we finally made it to Division 1. Ever since that day in November 2010 I wanted to be a D1 hockey player and win a D1 national championship. There was only one thing standing in our way… Neumann University, but ill get to them later. This year yet again our club doubled in size and we added our first Division 3 team. Our D1 team only saw a couple of big additions in Nick Casazza and Jon Krumholz. It was an up and down year for us but ill never forget going to our first interregional event and beating Lindenwood University in the semifinals. This was something that absolutely no one expected and definitely made some noise in the roller hockey world. Skip ahead to nationals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This was a tough nationals for us because we really got our first taste of D1 nationals and how hard it truly is to win a D1 national title. In the Elite 8 we found ourselves in a matchup against who else but Neumann University. That year we had already lost to them 6 times. Neumann was the defending national champion and they happened to get even better over the summer. That year they were without a doubt one of the best teams in the history of the NCRHA. Their team consisted of Luc Corso, Shane Fox, Tyler Kraft, Ryan Carr, Matt O’Shaughnessy, Andy Zubak, Ryan Marker, PJ DiMartino, Anthony Kozlow, Sean Phelan and Thomas Youmans. Anyone that knows anything about roller hockey is laughing right now because of how ridiculous that roster is. And if you think its scary reading it just try playing against it because if you happened to find a way to get through any of them, you still had to find a way to score on Mike Maczynski… good luck. We ended up losing the game but it is a game I will never forget because Neumann was the most hated team in the country and for 3 entire periods, the stands were packed with kids from other schools cheering for us. Some were friends, some were just doing it because everyone else was and some just did it because they hated Neumann. But the atmosphere was like nothing I have ever experienced before and is the reason I will never forget that game. The thing about college hockey is that kids are always graduating or changing schools so your time with certain players is limited. This was a special game because this was the last time I would be able to play with Steve and be coached by Dave Casazza. Steve and I had been through pretty much anything you can imagine from day one and this club would never have been possible without all the work that he and his father put in. Everyone that ever puts on a Farmingdale jersey has them to thank for that opportunity.
Year 4- Our first order of business this season was to find a new coaching staff. This was a pretty easy decision for us by selecting Jim Tamburino and Matt Ketcham. These two guys singlehandedly changed the direction of this program from day 1. At the beginning of the season we added Luc Corso, Matt O’Shaughnessy, Matt Cicchetti, Josh Wegar and Nick Tarasco. We knew from the beginning we were going to be a contender for the national title but we were missing 1 piece. It turns out that piece just happened to be PJ DiMartino who joined the team in the second semester. After we got PJ there was only one thing everyone in the league was looking forward to and that was the Farmingdale vs Neumann rematch at regionals. Everyone knew the history and the bad blood between the two teams that just built and built every day. We ended up playing them twice at regionals, the first game we beat them 5–4 in a back and forth game when PJ scored the game-winning goal with 14 seconds left. This game had more intensity and hatred than any game I have ever seen in my life… that was until the regional final. We played them yet again in the regional final in what was another back and forth, intense game that we were leading 5–4 with about 1 minute left. This is where things got out of hand and with about 30 seconds left there was an all out brawl followed by another with about 13 seconds left. The game ended in yet another 5–4 win and our first D1 regional championship. We were headed to nationals in Fort Myers, Florida as the #1 ranked team in the nation. We won 3 close pool play games by the scores of 4–3, 4–2, 3–2 working our way to the Division 1 national championship game against Lindenwood University. This is where I truly learned why PJ DiMartino is the best college hockey player in the country. After Chris Russolello scored a huge goal to tie the game at 2, it became the PJ DiMartino show. He decided it was time to take over the game and record a natural hat trick that put us up 5–2. That was it, the final score was 5–4 and just like that we were Division 1 National champs. It was easily one of the greatest moments of my entire life and without a doubt something I will carry with me forever.
Year 5- Now after winning D1 and D2 national championships, most people would be pretty content with ending their college career there, but not me. I was back for one more year. After doing some more recruiting we added Jake Corso, Joey DiMartino, Max Halvorsen and Tyler Kraft. Adding players of that caliber to an already stacked team had me on the outside looking in. I decided I was going to play Division 3 for the first time. This was something I had my heart set on with or without those additions. The D3 team had lost in the national championship final to Lindenwood University the year before. The season went by pretty smoothly with us going a perfect 23–0. It was also a season of personal highlights for me. I broke the ECRHA regular season record for points and goals in a single season (which wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for my line mates Colin Tinschert, Joe Mula and Frank Guida), I won the D3 Player of the Year award, and it was announced that the club would retire my jersey number along with Steve Casazza’s forever. This was truly one of the most amazing honors I could ever ask for. It is something that I cannot thank all my teammates and coaches enough for because it wouldn’t have been possible at all without them.
Going to Fargo, North Dakota for nationals left me with just a few games left in my college career. As we worked our way through nationals we made it to the national championship game against Lindenwood University yet again. Unfortunately we weren’t able to pull out the win as we fell 4–2 in a hard fought game. Obviously this was not the way I wanted to finish my college career, but I was able to step off the rink for the last time with some of my best friends in the entire world, which is all I could’ve asked for. I can’t thank my teammates Colin Tinschert, Joe Mula, Frank Guida, James Kolokathis, Matt Catania, Nick Casazza, Trevor Rubin, Chris Byrne, Zach Pomara, Ryan Fortcher and Dan Perepezko enough for making my last season the most memorable of them all.
I have been fortunate enough to play 5 years in the NCRHA, which is one of the best, and most well run leagues I have ever seen. I have been lucky enough to play beside some of the best players in the country and some of the best this league has ever seen. Deciding to stay home for college and help start the program at Farmingdale is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made and I encourage everyone reading this to play in this league if they get the chance. To all of the freshman reading this I will just warn you, enjoy your time in the league while it lasts because it goes much faster than you think. I can’t thank the NCRHA and ECRHA enough for all of the hard work they have done to make my college career a memorable and special one. It was an unbelievable ride that I will never forget. I’ll bleed black and green for life.
Bobby Litras #9
Farmingdale State College