During the Chicago Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2010, one particular tune stuck in the minds of a legion of fans watching. After every goal scored, the bassline of The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” would reverberate through the arena.
Left wing Jack Matura had an idea. The history major discussed with other members of Chapman’s ice hockey team – after every victory, they’d play “Chelsea Dagger” in their locker room. There proved to be a slight issue with this plan, of course, because during junior Matura’s sophomore season, the team didn’t win a single game.
But hockey’s losing history during the past two seasons was rewritten on Sept. 21, when the team skated its way to a 6-0 victory over California Lutheran University. Matura said the feeling of finally being able to blast the song in the locker room after the game was “liberating.”
“We were all singing along,” Matura said. “We were just having a lot of fun in the locker room with each other. It was a celebratory atmosphere.”
Make no mistake – these are not the Panthers of Matura’s underclassmen years, when the team would get blown out in double-digit losses so demoralizing they’d cause players to refuse to show up for practice the next day, said Matura and head coach Tradon Reid.
Sequences of play throughout the recent victory showcased the team’s improvement. Matura described a play in the second period in which Nick Shoman, freshman center and business administration major, weaved his way through the teeth of California Lutheran’s defense for a goal – a moment after which Matura said he knew the team would win. Reid pointed to a moment in the first period during which one specific line he deployed kept control of the puck in their offensive zone for an entire minute, a clear sign of improvement from the past.
“It was at that moment that I felt goosebumps go down my body, because the last two years it’s always been us on the receiving end of that,” Reid said. “I knew at that point we were going to win the game.”
One key factor in the team’s turnaround – the roster depth – was apparent in the victory. Matura said the team’s biggest problem in prior years wasn’t necessarily lack of skill, but a lack of players; having only 10 to 12 on the roster, the team would quickly lose stamina throughout an hour-long game. However, Reid was able to cycle in four lines throughout the game, as 18 of the 23 players on the roster saw time on the ice.
“We told this to the guys and the girls on our team from day one: ‘You are going to win by doing one thing, and that’s show up – I don’t mean just show up mentally,” Reid said.
Not only did the Panthers show up at their home arena of Anaheim Ice that Saturday, an estimated 40 to 50 fans crowded the stands to scream in support of the club team as well. That certainly may not sound like much, but it’s 40 to 50 more than the number that cheered the team last season Matura said.
“They really help us on the ice. When they’re chanting and going crazy at the games, it really invigorates us to play a lot better,” Matura said. “We’re forming a bond, not just with our team but with our fans too.”
Juniors Matura, right wing Jake Greif and center Cole Rubin are spearheading a group that has welcomed newcomers and returning players, creating a concoction of improved morale with a fire of redemption burning underneath.
Reid explained that this first win not only established to the league that the program is improving, but it also proved to members that this team is different, separate, from the losing culture in their past. This is a team looking to redeem its past two seasons and if they do notch a few more wins, they’ll likely be ready to belt their hearts out to the chorus of “Chelsea Dagger” again and again and again.