Roller hockey sibling duo brings home bronze medal from Argentina

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What did you do over the Fourth of July holiday? Many Americans celebrated the birthday of their country with a backyard barbecue or by watching a community fireworks display.

But the Santee sibling duo of Charles and Eric Baldwin had the chance to actually wear the colors of their country while competing in last month’s International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS) inline hockey world championship tournament in Rosario, Argentina.

What did you do over the Fourth of July holiday? Many Americans celebrated the birthday of their country with a backyard barbecue or by watching a community fireworks display.

But the Santee sibling duo of Charles and Eric Baldwin had the chance to actually wear the colors of their country while competing in last month’s International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS) inline hockey world championship tournament in Rosario, Argentina.

The brothers had the rare opportunity to play alongside one another in international competition for the United States senior men’s national team.

Charles Baldwin, who also goes by the rapper moniker of Chucky Slick, tied for the team scoring lead while younger brother Eric chipped in with a pair of goals to help Team USA skate home with the bronze medal.

It was the first time the brothers had been selected to represent their country in the annual FIRS world championships.

“It was amazing, it was an unreal experience,” Charles Baldwin said. “What was most enjoyable was meeting and making friends with people from different countries and different cultures.”

Eric Baldwin called the selection a “special moment.”

“I had played for junior U.S. teams in the past but I never thought I’d ever play for the big team,” he said. “It was an honor to play with players of that caliber.

“It was also my first time being out of the continent and the first time being in the southern hemisphere, so it was a culture shock for me and a good experience for me.”

Sixteen countries participated in the June 7-21 event. Besides the U.S. senior men’s national team, Team’s USA senior women’s team placed second while the U.S. junior men’s team placed fourth.

Both the Team USA senior women’s and senior men’s teams entered this year’s tournament as defending champions. However, both U.S. squads found the international competition much improved.

“Every team we played was competitive and every game was competitive,” Eric Baldwin explained. “You could tell that some of the teams from the other countries had been together a while. Roller hockey is on the rise in other countries.”

The U.S. senior men’s team started the tournament on a roll. The Americans finished pool play undefeated with wins over Colombia (2-0), Italy (6-3) and Spain (5-1). From there, the intensity of the competition increased.

Team USA slipped past host Argentina, 2-1, in the quarterfinals but then suffered a 6-2 loss to France in the semifinals. 

However, the U.S. senior men bounced back to defeat Latvia, 7-4, in the bronze medal game to finish the tournament with five wins and one loss.

The Czech Republic skated past France, 2-1, in overtime to win the gold medal.

The Baldwins were among five players from California on the Team USA roster, joining Sunnyvale’s Brian Ganz and goaltenders Blake Decker (Orange) and Tim Tobin (La Puenta).

Charles Baldwin tied teammate Joseph Mazzie (East Meadow, N.Y.) for the team scoring lead with 10 points. However, Baldwin led the U.S. team with eight goals while Mazzie collected six goals and four assists in the Americans’ six games.

Defense was a particular strong point for the U.S. senior men’s team. Ducker posted an outstanding 1.17 goals-against average and .921 save percentage while Tobin also played well with 1.33 GAA and .890 save percentage.

Charles Baldwin scored a natural hat trick to open the third-place match-up against Latvia. He said team chemistry was a strong point for the U.S. team.

“It was a matter of a bunch of guys who had never played before but who came together real fast,” Baldwin said. “We played really well defensively, our goalies stood on their heads and kept us in games.

“I was just focused on putting the puck in the net. Because of the small rink, I couldn’t really use my speed.”

Charles Baldwin caught the eye of Team USA administrators after leading the San Diego Tron Hosers in goal scoring during the 2014-15 American Inline Hockey League season. Baldwin, who played professional ice hockey in Sweden in 2013-14, paced the Hosers with 40 goals in 24 games while helping guide the team into the AIHL playoffs.

Eric Baldwin played ice hockey for St. Mary’s University of Minnesota last season; he has transferred to Iowa State for the upcoming NCAA Division I season.

Play at the international level was a bit different, however.

“The teams from South America have gotten really good. It was surprising to see how good their play was,” Charles Baldwin explained. “The French definitely brought their best guys.”

“Our team was more of a run-and-gun team while a lot of the other teams were more patient and waited for good chances to score, especially the Czechs and the French,” Eric Baldwin said. “I thought our style hurt us and helped us depending on which teams we played.”

Charles Baldwin said standing on the awards platform wearing the colors of his country was an once-in-a-lifetime experience made even more special with his brother also on the same platform.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It felt awesome.”

The experience was certainly a memorable one for father Steve, who coaches roller hockey at West Hills High School and who accompanied his sons on the trip.

“It was an incredible experience and, of course, sitting there in this arena in Rosario watching them help their team win the bronze medal, I couldn’t have been more proud,” the elder Baldwin explained. “It was certainly one of the highlights of my life.” 

Power plays

The U.S. senior women’s team dropped a 2-1 decision to the Czech Republic in the gold medal game while the U.S. junior men’s team came up short by a score of 3-2 to Italy in the bronze medal match.

The senior men’s tournament included teams from the United States, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Latvia, Switzerland, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Macau.

The senior women’s tournament included teams from the United States, Finland, Italy, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Czech Republic, Mexico and India.

The junior men’s tournament included teams from the United States, France, Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland. The Czechs shut out France, 2-0, to win the gold medal to give the Czech Republic a sweep of all three divisions.

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