The Collegian
Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Dedication leads club hockey to early success

Ice Hockey Captain, Senior Matt Improta, during a recent tournament against UVa.
Ice Hockey Captain, Senior Matt Improta, during a recent tournament against UVa.

The University of Richmond club ice hockey team started its ninth season with early success.

The Spiders are 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference, which consists of schools from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Washington. Richmond, a Division III club team, suffered both its losses against Virginia Tech, a Division II club team.

"This team is probably the best team we've had talent-wise," said Jake Rogers, a senior who has played for the club hockey team for four years. "We're deep and we have a strong freshman class."

The team's first tournament of the year came earlier this month during the Battle of Virginia. The University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech competed during the tournament, which took place at the Richmond Ice Zone in Short Pump.

The Spiders defeated Virginia 9-5 during the first game before losing to Virginia Tech on back-to-back days and finishing second in the tournament.

Although the team lost to Virginia Tech, the players were pleased that they competed well against a much bigger Division II program.

Last weekend, the team traveled to Virginia Beach to play two games against Blue Ridge Hockey Conference opponents Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University.

The Spiders won both games in overtime, thanks to game-winning goals from seniors Matt Improta and Ray Gill.

Senior Byron Glasgow, a forward on the team, said this year's team was more dedicated and committed to winning than teams during previous seasons.

"Every single kid wants to win and wants to be there," he said. "In the past, kids just wanted to play. These kids want to win a national championship."

In order to reach Nationals, which the team has not done during the past three seasons, the Spiders must maintain a high ranking within Division III to qualify for the South Regional tournament during the spring. Ten teams from the South region make the Regional tournament, with the top four teams advancing to Nationals.

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So far, the first-line forwards of Gill, Improta and freshman John Danyluk have provided most of the scoring for the Spiders.

Although Gill is a senior, this is the first season he has played for the club team. He has already made an impact, scoring 10 goals in six games.

"Ray has been able to finish rebounds and stuff around the net," Rogers said. "Last year, we had our opportunities around the net but we weren't taking advantage."

The players also said goaltending had improved from last season, especially the play of junior goalie Addison Humbert.

One of the Spiders' biggest weapons, junior defenseman Dan Hebert, is studying abroad. Improta said Hebert's return during the second semester could help the team succeed during playoff time.

"He's an asset and a leader," Improta said. "We're excited to have him back. Going into the playoffs it could really help."

But the Spiders have a lot of games to play before playoff time, starting this weekend during a tournament in Georgia. The team will play Florida Gulf Coast University, Georgia Tech and Clemson University.

Florida Gulf Coast and Georgia Tech are both perennially strong teams within the Division III South region, so this tournament will be a good indication of Richmond's ability to compete against top competition, Rogers said.

Though the team is focused on making a run at Nationals, the players also said the team was about more than just on-ice success.

"We haven't been to Nationals since I've been here, so that would be cool," Improta said, "and winning a Blue Ridge Hockey Conference title would be fun ... but being with the team is about more than just winning."

Rogers also said the team hoped to attract more fans to its home games this season, especially after playing in front of big crowds at Virginia Beach last weekend.

"We played an overtime game in front of 220 people [against Christopher Newport University] and they had cheers going," he said. "It was really fun to play in front of that atmosphere. It made it feel more like we were playing for the school."

The Spiders return home to the Richmond Ice Zone in Short Pump at 10:50 p.m. on Nov. 13 when they take on Blue Ridge Hockey Conference opponent Salisbury University.

Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at reilly.moore@richmond.edu

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