LMU Hockey has expanded its club sports program to include a second team and new coaches for their 2023-24 season, which kicked off with a home-opener victory Friday against San Jose State. On Friday, Sept. 22, more than 500 people, including more than 325 LMU students, attended the opening home game at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. This marks the first time the club sports program has topped the 500-person attendance mark.
Showcasing her Lion Pride, Senior Vice President Kawanna Leggett, Ed.D., for Student Affairs joined the team on the ice to drop the first hockey puck of the season, complete with her custom white LMU hockey jersey with her last name embroidered on the back. The Lions were off to an amazing start as they scored three goals within the first three minutes of the game. The scored two more in the final minutes of the game and beat San Jose State University, 9-1.
Joe Kurita ’24 is from Plano, Texas, and completing his master’s degree in business administration, plays center and serves as a team captain. He has noticed a lot of changes this year across the program, but the one that has stood out is the increased support from students at their games. “The student section has come bigger and louder, and that gets our team hyped up that much more,” said Kurita. “We have a good, diverse group of guys that foster a unique camaraderie, both on and off the ice; it’s a joy being around everyone. Being a part of the hockey team, there is always something you could do or someone to hang out with. Prior to joining the team, I was slightly wary because I would be the oldest player on the team, as a graduate student, but they’ve embraced me with open arms. Jokingly, my incredible linemate DeLaForestcalls me ‘Grandpa Joe,’ and that’s now our thing. Everyone has ‘their thing’ with one another, which truly resembles the tight-knit inclusive culture the team cultivates. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this team.”
Spencer Engstrom ’24 a finance major from Bradford, Connecticut, is a team captain this year and plays center. He’s been playing hockey since he was 7 years old and his favorite part about being on the team is feeling like he is part of a family away from home. “Being from the East Coast there is definitely a culture shock coming to L.A. and being a part of the LMU hockey team has made that transition much easier,” said Engstrom. “I also enjoy surrounding myself with a high-energy competitive group of friends, which is exactly what we are developing in this program. I have also been able to engage with other teams and build a relationship that helps support the fan base for each team. My LMU student experience has been impacted tremendously by being a part of this team and I am excited to see where the future of LMU hockey will go.”
Foster Krueger ’25, an entrepreneurship major with an electrical engineering minor from Breckenridge, Colorado, also has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old and serves as a team captain. He plays as a left defenseman and his goal for the team this year is to make the top eight teams in the region. “My first year, we won a historic first game in regionals, and my hope is that we can make a deep run at regionals this year, and perhaps even make it to nationals,” said Krueger. “Every year, this hockey team has been improving, but this year has been a significant jump. With a great class of incoming freshmen, a new coach, extra practice, and an extra weight training session per week, we are making historic progress in the development of this team. This team helped me find my best friends, roommates, and mentors before I had even started school. It feels like a community that is constantly welcoming and always there for me.”
The 2023-24 season also came with two big announcements for the program, one expanding to a second D3 team and new head coaches. The D3 team will play mostly American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) D2 programs in L.A. and may travel to play region ACHA D3 teams. This expansion comes with growth of the hockey program itself having about 30 players this year and a desire to let every player have the chance to play hockey and represent LMU with pride. “The last few years we had roughly 30 players, and we knew we’d have more this year,” said Tyler Goeckner-Zoeller, general manager for LMU Hockey. “It’s not fun to only let 21 of our over 30-player team play in our games, so when we knew we’d have just enough to field two teams, we went for it. This expansion of our program gives everyone a chance to play, represent their school, and have fun. The main difference between the teams is the time commitment and so some players have chosen the D3 team for the chance to play a sport they are passionate about with fewer hours.”
Trevor Wada will serve as head coach for the D3 hockey team in its season debut. Wada has played, coached, and officiated hockey in California for the past 19 years and is a product of the California Amateur Hockey Association. He holds a level 4 coaching certificate from USA hockey and has a track record of success during his time coaching, including winning two California Amateur Hockey Association Tier Two state championships and two finalist finishes over the past five years as well as a 18-U Tier One State Championship in 2022. Wada graduated from Cal State Fullerton and played junior A hockey in New Jersey.
Daniel Kim also joined the LMU hockey program to be the head coach for the D2 team, replacing Jack Hyman. Kim has been coaching youth hockey for the past 20 years and played for various AAA programs, including the Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League and the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the West Coast Hockey League after his junior career. Kim currently serves as the hockey director for the L.A. Kings Iceland at Paramount and L.A. Kings Ice Palos Verdes.
View the full hockey schedule here. Some of the highlight games of this season will be on Dec. 2, at 6:30 p.m., where the team will be hosting their annual Teddy Bear Toss game at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. And on Jan. 24, at 5:50 p.m. the team will host their Senior Night at Skating Edge Ice Arena as they take on UCLA. Follow LMU Hockey on Instagram @lmuhockey for the latest updates on schedule and game reports.