EXCELLING ON ICE: Chrisman helps hockey team to league championship

Published 3:49 pm Monday, March 14, 2016

JIM CHRISMAN CHAMPIONS: Owen Chrisman and the rest of the Lightning pose with their championship banner and medals.

CHAMPIONS: Owen Chrisman and the rest of the Lightning pose with their championship banner and medals.

It’s been nearly a decade since the first time Owen Chrisman took the ice for the first time. The 13-year-old first learned to skate when he was just four and began playing hockey two years later when he was six.

Hockey is a common sport for children growing up in more northern areas. That’s not the case here in North Carolina, but Chrisman fell in love with it pretty quickly.

“We would try working on digging into the ice with our skates,” Chrisman said of his first memories of the sport. “Our coach would bungee cord two people together and we’d try to pull the other one out of the circle.”

He enjoys all the action in hockey.

“You’re always doing something. You hardly ever stop. You’re just skating around,” he said.

Fast-forward to today. Chrisman, a defenseman, traveled to Charleston, S.C. for the Carolina Hockey League (CHL) championship tournament. The league is comprised of teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

Chrisman’s team, the Carolina Lightning Bantam “A” team, entered seeded seventh out of eight teams. They knocked off the top-two squads en route to claiming the league title.

It was an incredible accomplishment for Chrisman and his underdog comrades to complete the upset and win the championship. As a defenseman, Chrisman played a pivotal role in keeping his team in contention throughout the tournament. He did his best not to get beat by opposing skaters en route to a moment that is surely a hallmark of his young hockey career.

“It was awesome,” Chrisman said. “We came in as a seventh seed. We were playing this team and we probably a little better than them, conditioning wise. We beat them and that felt pretty good.

“Then the Junior Canes are probably the best teams in the league. We were beating them the whole game, but then in the last second they ended up beating us. Then we played the Greenville, S.C. team. That was a kind of tough game. … I hardly let anybody skate around me. I shut them down.”

LOCKING DOWN: As a defenseman, Owen Chrisman’s priority is neutralizing the opposition’s forwards. His performance on the back end helped lead his team to the Carolina Hockey League championship recently.

For Chrisman, the win was the summation of years of work. The Lightning practice twice a week in Raleigh. Over the course of the half-year season, his father, Jim Chrisman, said he attended 57 practices and played in 48 games. He logged just over 22,000 miles just between practices and games for the travel club.

It also took him to five states.

“We’ve been to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Those were really fun,” he said. “(Recently) we went to Nashville for a tournament. That was pretty fun.”

This is all in addition to Chrisman’s schoolwork. He does his homework in the car to and from practice. There are times he doesn’t get home until 11 p.m. He and his family are able to manage thanks to support from friends and family.

His father believes the routine helps keep him focused because it limits distractions like television and video games.

“He’s a straight-A student. It’s kept him focused,” Jim Chrisman said. “He needs to be regimented when he does his homework. He doesn’t get home from practices until almost 11 at night. It’s tough.”

Chrisman’s favorite player is Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. At the young age of 23, Faulk serves as one of the team’s alternate captains. He’s proven himself reliable on the defensive end, but also has an impressive scoring touch.

Faulk, a Minnesota native, has also represented the United States in international competition. He most recently had three assists in 10 games at the 2015 Ice Hockey World Championships.

“I like him because he’s a defenseman and he’s one of the best defensemen on the team,” Chrisman said. “I just like watching him because he’s really good.”

Chrisman also likes Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe. He said that Gerbe, who is only 5-foot-5, is fun to watch because he never stops moving.

Chrisman is aiming higher than the CHL championship. There’s still a lot he hopes to accomplish in his hockey career. High school is on the horizon and he intends to continue playing. One of his goals is to play a hockey game in Canada. He would like to continue playing hockey through high school, college and, hopefully, in the NHL one day.