MURRAY When looking for the future of hockey in these United States, Murray High School probably isn't at the top of the list for most hockey fans.
That doesn't matter, though, to seven Spartans.
Murray's inline hockey club team pulled off a stunner by winning the USA Hockey national championship last month in Voorhees, New Jersey. The Spartans, despite finishing second in its Utah league, advanced to the national tournament where they outlasted Cherry Hills of New Jersey to the title.
The Spartans, coached by Alan Swenson, started the tournament slowly with one loss and three ties in their first four games, but closed out the three-day tourney in style with a pair of convincing wins, including a 6-3 decision in the championship game.
"Last year we played in it and we didn't have the same style as the other teams but we tried to adapt our style," said Alex Stevens, a senior on the team who scored three goals and had three assists. "This year, we kind of went back to our style."
Tommy Rupp was named to the all-tournament team after leading Murray with 12 goals and six assists. Rodney Mills added 10 goals and six assists.
Brayden Chipman recorded the only shutout in the tournament as Murray's goalkeeper and allowed only 23 goals while minding the net for six games and 144 minutes. Chipman faced more shots than any other keeper in the tournament but had the highest save percentage by turning away 93 of 116 shots fired at him.
Playing against east coast competition took some time for the Spartans to adjust. Their opponents, Stevens said, focus more on skills such as skating and passing while Murray's forte is individual skating and shooting.
"Our seniors really stepped up over the last two games," Stevens said. "This was out last shot playing together since we had so many seniors."
Inline hockey isn't the only game the team enjoys. After a second-place finish to Timpanogos in Utah's ice hockey league, the Spartans laced up the wheels and earned a spot in the national tournament with enough wins locally.
Only three teams advanced to the nationals but Stevens said that worked out better.
"Last year, there were too many teams and things got really kind of dirty for a while. There was way too much checking and hitting. It got too physical," he said. "This year it was pretty good. We all seemed to have better sportsmanship and we actually got to be good friends with one of the teams and spent most of the day off the rink with them."