After eight long months and a successful regular season of collegiate roller hockey, WCU’s team Purple, with a record of 11-5, and team Gold, with a record of 9-6-1, now have a chance to see each other in the Philadelphia Collegiate Roller Hockey League (PCRHL) finals. In the fall of 2003 the WCU Roller Hockey Club entered its fifth0 year. As in the past, the club was looking to fill a two team roster. Heading into this year, however, there were some uncertainties about the club’s strength, as more than half of last year’s players graduated. These questions were quickly answered after the club had an excellent turnout at tryouts, which was enough to fill both teams with very talented players. Team Gold took on many returning and more experienced players, whereas team Purple was filled with all but two new players. Both teams were set to play in the (PCRHL) to see how they would measure up against teams like Temple University, Neumann College, and many others.
Going into the first game of the season team Gold felt a great deal of pressure, as they attempted to set an example for the younger team. Many players also had an added motivation to win this year because of how the last season ended, with the second round playoff loss in double overtime to archrivals Neumann College. Gold’s first game showed that they were serious about this season as they crushed championship runner-up Lehigh University 10-5. Team Gold then continued their success by winning five out of their next seven games.
At the same time, team Purple was struggling to find their game. Despite the opening day loss to Cabrini College, it was clear that the team had a lot of potential. Players on Purple, while demonstrating individual talent and tremendous enthusiasm, just needed time to get used to playing with each other. “Once we get used to each other, we will be one of the most competitive teams in the league,” said coach Joe Baroni. It was not an overnight process, however, as the team struggled to a 4-5 record through the first nine games.
On Dec. 7 two WCU teams squared off against each other in the league play. Both teams needed points to maintain their positions in the standings in this competitive league, but it was obviously more than just a regular season game. The game itself did not disappoint any fans that came out to watch. Despite playing each other many times in practice, team Purple took their more experienced counterparts by surprise, playing with more intensity and beating Gold to every loose puck. Only the calm approach of more experienced players kept the game close. In fact, the game entered overtime where Dan Tallon of the Purple team scored to win the game and bragging rights.
The Gold vs. Purple game was the turning point of the season for team Purple as they came back to the second half of the season to crush every opponent. At the end of the regular season, they were on an eight game winning streak. In the process, they beat many top teams and found themselves in second place entering the playoffs.
Heading back into the second half of the season, team Gold encountered a misfortune as they lost their top scorer, Dominick Gaspari, to an injury. Team Gold was struggling to match the success of their younger counterparts and even their own successes from the beginning of the season. Soon some of the other key players went down with injuries, including defenseman John Cinque. Team Gold went from second place overall to fighting for the last playoff spot. Gold’s postseason fate came down to the last game of the regular season. Gold rose to the challenge and came out in full force, including all of the previously injured players. With everyone back, the team once again showed its dominance, defeating the very tough Drexel team, and clinching a playoff spot. The game also showed solidarity among the whole club, as almost everyone from the younger team came out to show their support.
With team Purple dominating the league and team Gold back and healthy, both teams have a good chance of winning the PCRHL championship. “I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t have a Purple vs. Gold final” said Brian Hood of team Purple.
Regardless of the outcome of the playoffs, it is clear that the club has a very bright future. Even with several graduating players on team Gold, there are many younger guys from team Purple that are ready to fill the needed leadership positions in the club as well as on the hockey rink.
Next season West Chester will make its return to the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (ECRHA) to play against even tougher competitors like the University of Maine, Rhode Island, Penn State, and many others.
For more information please visit www.wcurollerhockey.com for playoff results and to learn how to get involved next year.