Opportunities to serve, learn front and center for California natives, Army duo
It’s a road less traveled by California hockey players, but Taylor Maruya and Trevin Kozlowski are proud to journey down it at Army West Point.
The two are the lone players from the Golden State playing NCAA Division I hockey for U.S. service academies for the 2017-18 season. But Maruya said Californians shouldn’t let military service and academic rigor deter them from taking advantages of the opportunities a military school offers hockey players.
“Keep an open mind,” said Maruya, a junior forward from Westchester. “When I was getting recruited here, I never thought I’d be involved in the military at any point.
“Young players in California should keep their options open. Be patient. Don’t make any rash decisions. In terms of academics, when you get here, there are so many resources to help you succeed. It’s really not as hard as you might think.”
Added Kozlowski, a freshman goaltender from Valencia who had one grandfather serve in the Army and a great grandfather who served in the Navy: “It’s one of those things where you get the opportunity to do so many things all at once – a great education, serve your country and play D-I hockey. It’s all there in one confined area, which is pretty unique.
“It’s hard to visit this place and not want to come here.”
Black Knights coach Brian Riley said the two already have left an impression on his program.
“What a great young man,” the coach said. “Taylor is everything you hope players will be when they come in. How he represents this institution is how you want players to, both on and off the ice.”
“Not only does he have tremendous leadership qualities, but he is an outstanding player. He can play with anyone on the team and he plays an honest, 200-foot game,” Riley said.
“He’s such a trustworthy player and he’s very selfless.”
Kozlowski is one of two freshmen goaltenders backing up senior starter Cole Bruns. His youth hockey (Jr. Kings, LA Selects and California Titans), prep school and junior credentials are impressive, but he won’t be handed anything, and he knows it.
“The culture here demands that you respect upperclassmen – you’ve got to be respectful,” Kozlowski said. “On the hockey team, that exists but if you’re playing better, you’re going to play. Our upperclassmen try to help you out and provide guidance.”
Any contribution from a newcomer is a bonus at Army. There are so many things freshmen have to adapt to.
“It’s tough for freshmen anywhere in college hockey and then when you’re at a service academy, it’s even harder,” Riley said. “You have so many things on your plate – the academics, the military training and the hockey part.
“Trying to get an understanding of how things are done, time management has a lot to do with it. You’re trying to be good at everything, and these guys figure it out.”
Neither player said he would trade his experience at West Point, adding the military element draws the team closer.
“Going through six weeks of basic training is a culture shock, and it’s a lot different summer than what most kids have – a huge wake-up call,” said Kozlowski, who is a business management major interested in going into armor or infantry when he is commissioned. “Repelling, throwing grenades, firing rocket launchers. It’s rigorous, but fun. Readjusting to school after a year of junior has taken some work, but it’s well worth it.”
Maruya also is a management major and is leaning toward working with combat arms, either in field artillery or armor. He said the closeness of his teammates has left a big impression on him.
“It’s a different type of teammate,” said. “It’s not that I didn’t have good teammates in juniors because I did, but I’ve had so many great experiences here besides hockey.”
— Chris Bayee
(Dec. 9, 2017)