Men’s Club Hockey Completes Successful Season


Courtesy of @villanovahockey

Men’s club ice hockey finished the season with a 16-7-2 record.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

A rink that’s 35 minutes away from campus, 10 p.m. ice times, eight-hour bus rides to tournaments on weekends and a season that stretches from August to March. It sounds like a lot, but for the members of the Villanova Men’s club hockey team, it’s a small price to pay to be able to continue playing the game they love. 

“Over the course of my four years here, you learn that you prioritize the things that you care about,” senior left wing Tim Arena said. “If it’s something that you really love and enjoy doing, you’ll be able to make the time for it.”

Arena, a native of Farmington, CT, grew up around the game, and he’s been playing hockey since he was four years old. 

“I love playing, so even though we practice at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we’re able to get the other things done throughout the day,” Arena said. “So that we can show up to practice and be in the moment and enjoy being there.”

Arena and Ajay Fernandez, the team’s netminder, are both seniors and have played their final games as IceCats. Fernandez reflected on what it has meant to him to be a part of the team and the camaraderie that he’s developed with his teammates over the years.

“This year, for our senior night game, we had kids who graduated last year, kids who graduated two years ago and then even kids who were seniors when we were freshmen on the team [come back],” Fernandez said. I think that just shows how special the bond is amongst the people on the team that some people you haven’t seen in maybe a few years are going to come back and support you on your senior night.”

The team itself is young in comparison to other club hockey teams around the country and plays a defensive brand of hockey. In 2021-22, the squad ranked 13th in goals allowed across the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division I.

“We put defense first, and then offense builds off of it,” junior right wing Max Williams said. 

The ‘Cats accrued a record of 16-7-2 across their 26-game season. With there being no hockey in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, the team played with some extra edge, trying to make up for what it missed. 

“We felt like we had something to prove, especially for the seniors,” Fernandez said. “I’d say we maybe underperformed or didn’t do as well as we would have liked to our freshmen and sophomore years. We were the sixth seed in our league freshman and sophomore year, and I feel like we knew we could play a lot better than that.”

The ‘Cats ended up finishing third in their league this season and fell to William Paterson University in the semifinals of the league playoff. 

“We beat teams we haven’t beaten since [I’ve] been here,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez set the program record for highest save percentage over a career, with a mark of .922. He also finished in the top three of save percentage for ‘21-’22 within the ACHA, saving 93% of shots faced. 

Even though there’s no on-campus rink for either the men’s or women’s club hockey teams, students still find ways to support their classmates on the ice.

“For some of our games, we had like 300-400 people there, and that’s with our rink being 35 minutes away from campus,” Fernandez said. “And that’s with everybody [having] to pay $5 to the rink to come watch our games.”

With the growing popularity and attention surrounding club sports such as hockey, it is possible that the school may be missing an opportunity to promote club sports by not having a rink closer to campus. 

“I think there’s definitely a huge opportunity there to grow club sports and [change] the opinions surrounding it,” Arena said. “It would be great if the school could recognize that a little more.” 

Arena did recognize that since the team is not officially part of the NCAA, the athletic department and University may choose to focus on other programs 

“But I also think they do what they can,” Arena said. “Obviously, you have our basketball program and the top NCAA [programs are] what they’re going to focus on, but I do think it’s an opportunity there that the school could potentially capitalize on and grow the club sports.”

For the seniors on the team, they’ll move on to get jobs post-graduation outside of the hockey world, but they’ll always have a special bond with their teammates. 

“That’s gonna be the biggest thing I take away from my four years,” Arena said. “The people you play with, that’s what makes it so fun. You show up to the rink 40 minutes away on a Wednesday night, but you’re with your best friends playing the game you love. So for me, those moments you shared in the locker room, the bus rides, the post-game wins. That’s what made this year so great.”