BY MELANIE DASILVA
The Sacred Heart University club ice hockey program opened their 2018-2019 season on Sept. 22, at Massachusetts Maritime in Barnstable County, Mass. The team is separated in two with an A Team and a B Team. The difference between the two is the level of competition the teams face. The A Team practices more and plays a few more games than the B Team.
According to the Sacred Heart club athletics page, the A team recently went through a coaching change in the season’s opening month.
On Oct. 22, director of club sports, Ray Mencio, announced that A team head coach Dave Jurasek, had stepped down due to personal reasons. Mike Blando was then named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Blando had been an assistant coach after his playing career for the team ended after four seasons.
“The start of this season has not gone quite how we had hoped,” said Blando. “Our team is hovering around the .500 mark and we are still trying to find our identity as a group considering we are a young team full of freshmen, with a young coaching staff.”
The B Team maneuvers as an independent team in the Atlantic Coastal Hockey Association (ACHA) Division III League. They play a variety of teams within the northeast with a goal of qualifying for the Regional Tournament at the end of the season.
“This season we have faced some injuries, so the main struggle is trying to put together a winning team with the players we have,” said sophomore Kyle Horsa of the B Team. “It is important for us to always play a full game and to never give up until the game is over.”
The team practices once a week. In practice, they focus on executing their defensive and offensive plays to make sure they are all on the same page, and can implement them effectively in games.
“With all of the freshmen on the team, they have brought nothing but energy and heart day in and day out,” said senior Nicholas Piselli of the B Team. “They all have been adjusting to the game play and always work as hard as possible to be better.”
Their motivation is one of their greatest strengths, according to the players, and the leadership between the coaches and captains on and off the ice helps the team atmosphere.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” said Piselli. “They make playing that much better with the great effort they bring in.”
The coaches have been stressing the importance of playing the full 60-minute game and forcing the opposing team to play at their level of speed and skill. The players also strive to always have each other’s backs in practices and games, no matter what.
“The team as a whole has been like a second family to me,” said Horsa. “Every time we step out on that ice, we represent not only ourselves, but our University.”
Blando said that even though the teams are young, they are very fast and skilled. Blando is confident that over time, they will be able to beat any opponent in their division.
“Even with a young group it is evident that when we are on our game, working hard and enjoying ourselves, other teams have a difficult time keeping up,” said Blando. “I’m excited to see just how far this group can go both this season and in the future.”
The B Team’s next contest will be against Nichols College at home on Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. The A Team will play the day prior on Nov. 2, at home against Army, which will also be at 8 p.m.