West Chester University has seen its men’s hockey program make great strides in recent years. With the team on a tremendous upswing, team officials decided that it was time for the program to add a second team at a lower level. The 2009-10 season marks the unveiling of the WCU Division III club team, and the team figures to make an impact right away.”We’re very excited about our D-III team,” WCU general manager Dom Bellizzie said. “We’ve got a lot of talent in our organization and we only have so many spots on the D-I team, so this team presents a great opportunity for some very talented players.”
Former WCU teammates Jason Munter and Jason Ferrell will be behind the Golden Rams’ bench. Both are coaching rookies at this level, but both are bright individuals who should quickly become comfortable handling the coaching reins. As younger coaches, the pair should be able to relate well to the players, as they’ve both been through similar situations. The two bring experience, savvy and a deep knowledge of the game to the team.
“I think we’ve got the potential to be a top team in the conference,” Ferrell said. “We’ve got a lot of players with experience at the D-I level and we’re counting on them to be leaders for our team.
Some of those players include Drew Mervin, Tom Haeberle, Justin Lewandowski Ryan Bones, and Andrew Gregoire. All have played a significant amount of games for the Division I team and will be expected to be the team’s leaders and its best players.
“I definitely feel like one of the team’s leaders,” Lewandowski said. “I feel that a lot of the new guys look up to some of the older players, especially those with experience on the (D-I) team.”
While Haeberle, Mervin, and Lewandowski will lead the offensive charge, much of the defensive game plan will revolve around Bones, a sophomore defenseman with tremendous potential and poise.
“Bones is going to be our captain,” Ferrell said. “We really like what he does back there. He’s very calm and composed and he seems to calm everyone down. He’s got some game experience and he’s someone the team can look up to.”
“Mervin, Lewandowski and Gregoire can all put the puck in the net, and they’re also players that the rest of the team’s going to look up to. We’re expecting big things from them. Our top two lines are almost entirely comprised of players with (D-I) experience, which is a very nice luxury to have,” Ferrell said.
The team will compete in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference, and it’s a conference in which the team feels it can make noise in.
“We feel that we can absolutely be at the top of the conference,” Lewandowski said. “We’re a very deep team with a lot of experience and there’s a lot of good talent on the roster.”
“I think we have a very good chance of winning the conference,” Ferrell echoed. “We’ve got a lot of skill and we’ve got a bunch of players who are very motivated, which always helps.”
Farrell admits that he’s somewhat unfamiliar about the conference’s elite teams, but says that he expects a lot of competitive and close games. The Golden Rams sprinted out of the gate with a 3-0 record which saw them out-score opponents by a 32-6 margin. WCU opened their season with a 13-3 pasting of Shippensburg, followed it up with a 3-2 nail-biter over Richard Stockton and crushed Bryn Athyn 16-1 on Saturday night.
The Golden Rams embark on a tough four-game road trip with games against Lehigh, Widener, Penn State-Berks and Alvernia. The four-game swing will determine whether the team is a contender for the DVCHC title in its inaugural season, or if it is a pretender who will need to cut its teeth against the conference’s elite before being able to eat with the big boys.
The team has enough size, speed and skill to lay claim to being the conference’s best team. However, games are played on the ice, not on paper, and the Golden Rams will have to prove themselves worthy of a lofty billing.
Matt Chandik is a fifth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.