The University of Richmond club hockey team finished its semester with two wins against Old Dominion University this weekend, beating ODU 15-1 Friday night at home, and 7-3 on Saturday night in an away game.
Ben Napierala, senior captain and goalie of the club hockey team, called Friday's game "the best game of the season." The team ended this semester with a 15-1 record.
The team beat Wake Forest this semester, which had a 17-3-1 record last season, according to a urhockey.com news update. The team also hosted a charity game against the University of Tennessee. The game was scheduled in order to honor Virginia State Police Officer Bates, who died in the helicopter crash in Charlottesville in August.
Bates had been heavily involved in the Richmond hockey community and played for the University of Tennessee hockey team, which is why both teams came together to hold a charity game in his honor, Napierala said.
During Napierala's first two years on the team, the players won a total of three games.
“It’s evolved quite a bit since I was a freshman,” Napierala said. The team hired a new coach and changed divisions in the four years that Napierala has been a student.
The team this year brings young talent and a lot of energy into the arena, he said. Ten of the 24 players are first-years, and these first-years bring a lot of talent, Napierala said.
Andrew Aguilera, senior, who attended Friday’s game, shared this sentiment.
“The energy for those at hockey games is up," he said.
Morgan Simmonds, senior, who also attended the game, agreed.
“It was cool to come together with other Richmond students in a small setting,” he said.
Aguilera said that, in comparison to other UR sporting events he had attended, hockey games seemed to have had more energy. This is partially due to the small size of the arena and to the nature of the game, Aguilera said.
The team plays at Richmond Ice Zone, which is located near Midlothian.
Napierala said he was energetic about the future of the club hockey team, as they finished 16th in the south last season. The team is looking to qualify for the regional tournament by being ranked in the top 10 — the last rankings in February will determine who attends the tournament.
The team also hopes to keep growing the program by increasing the number of players to about 30 students.
“We’re building a culture that we used to have,” Napierala said.
Because of the strong alumni connections the team is building, he said he believed that this culture was maintainable and the team's goals were achievable.
“We have big plans," he said.
Contact contributor Meredith Scroggin at firstname.lastname@example.org