Dominating our campus in athletics, the men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and field hockey teams usually take precedence over our club ice hockey team. However, the latter has proven to be just as successful over the years.
In a sense, the team seems to receive less respect because it is a club team rather than a Division I team, like the more popular teams on campus. But is that a valid reason for this reasoning? The hockey players put on cranberry jerseys every weekend and represent the school in the same exact fashion as any other team.
This wasn’t always the case and and of course acceptions such as rival games like TCNJ occur but, the Broncs typically host 75 viewers, according to junior forward Mike Rossi. This can’t compare to the nearly full stands of a typical men’s basketball game.
Of course, students don’t have the luxury of being able to walk to a hockey game from their dorm, but Loucks Ice Arena is just a short five-minute drive down the road. College students love nothing more than free entertainment, and the hockey team provides just that, as the games are free to all students.
Students on campus oftentimes say, “Well, isn’t the team just a club team?” Yes, but they play top-notch teams from many schools in the ACHA including Delaware, Maryland and Penn State.
There are a total of 184 ACHA teams that are broken into four regions. Rider is currently in 7th place in the Southeast region, which is the highest it has ever been ranked, according to Rossi. The Broncs are compared to impressive teams such as the undefeated, nationally ranked Miami, which is 19-0.
The Broncs have made the league playoffs every year since the 2005-06 season. This year is also the second straight year the team has qualified for regionals.
Although the Broncs will graduate four significant seniors at the end of this season, they show a promising group of underclassmen, including seven current freshmen in an assortment of positions who will continue to build on the team’s success. Impressively filling some large shoes, sophomore forward Pat Grilli is currently tied for 14th in the ACHA in goals with 24 and 17th in total points with 51. He has the potential to continue with the team and its ongoing success.
This weekend’s games mark the last shot for students to watch the Broncs until next year. The MACHA playoffs, are set to take place in Abingdon, Md. on Feb. 15 to 17. In previous years, the team played at its absolute highest level with more support than any other season’s games.
In both the 2010-11 and 2009-10 seasons, the Broncs made it to the MACHA championship game. Last year, they were taken down in a tough battle against Rowan that resulted in a first-round defeat. This year, coming back strong, the team looks to ignite the fire and take charge of the championship weekend. Rider, the underdogs, will look to defeat the likes of top-seeded Penn State, which is 9-0 in conference play, and second-seeded Rowan. Penn State has scored 50 goals while only conceding 16. With that being said, what are sports without a little fierce competition and motivation?
Although this is the final stretch for the senior class, the underclassmen are just starting their journey toward a championship and we know the Broncs won’t go down without a fight.
If you’re into tough competition on the cool ice, then the Broncs are the way to go.
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