Club ice hockey ready for new season after staff overhaul

Sean O'Connor

The University’s Men’s Club Ice Hockey team begins practice this week as it looks forward to another successful season. 

Tryouts ran Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights last week at the Hatfield Ice Arena produced the 30 players who will play for the Ice Cats in the 2017-18 season.  Among those 30 players are eight freshmen who could give the Ice Cats what they need to push their way to a conference final this year.  Winning the conference is about bragging rights for the Ice Cats—a conference championship earns Villanova a ticket to nationals, which is where the real excitement starts. 

Although the Ice Cats registered a record of 14-17 last year, they made a deep run into the conference playoffs. The Ice Cats, who play in Division 1 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, were defeated 5-2 by Drexel last season in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association semi finals. The team graduated only a few seniors last year, and it just picked up an entirely new coaching staff for the upcoming season.  New head coach Kenny Orlando has a strong hockey background, and returning players feel his presence already.  

“He really brings a lot of energy,” senior Troy Donahue said.  

Veteran players will be a valuable resource to new freshmen players, as many top players from last year will be back on the ice this season.  Captain and 2016-17 leading point scorer Jack Skaggs will be donning a Villanova sweater again, along with assistant captains Donahue and David Troiano.  Sophomores Richie Halevy and George Clark are also returning as big forces in the forward lines for the Ice Cats.  

The last time the team went to nationals was in their 2014-2015 season, but players are hopeful of their chances for 2016-2017.  

“The team seems really well structured right now—it’s looking like we’re going to have a good year,” Donahue said.  

For the Ice Cats, structure might be the key to success this season. The hometowns of the Ice Cats are diverse, and players hail from anywhere from Alaska to Georgia.  Different play styles are sure to be found between places like Dallas, Chicago, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, to name a few regions.  Connecting each player’s strengths has worked well for the Ice Cats in the past, and the team is confident in its new coaching staff to build upon the solid foundation already in place.  Already, the players are ecstatic about one thing in particular. Reflecting on the team’s uniforms, Donahue affirmed, “Our jerseys are fresh.”

Last season, the Ice Cats played 31 games, with multiple games every week during the winter months.  The Ice Cats will play a slightly shorter schedule this year but will still be playing one or two games each weekend until February.  

Their first game will be this Friday, Sept. 22, in Hatfield Ice Arena at 7:15 p.m. against Robert Morris University. Hatfield Ice Arena is 25 minutes away by car in Montgomery County.