File Photo | Erin Pence
Springfield, Ohio – It has been a season of firsts for the Wittenberg University ice hockey club team, culminating in an unexpected run to the Collegiate Ice Hockey Association (CIHA) Championship Tournament April 3-5 at Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena in Newark, Ohio.
The Tigers reached the national competition for the first time after winning the Buckeye Conference with a 10-3-2 overall record. Wittenberg is one of 10 teams in the tournament, and the Tigers will open play against Medaille at 8 a.m. Thursday, April 3.
“Getting a chance to play for a national title is a humbling experience,” said Ben Saylor, class of 2014 from Ostrander, Ohio. “Throughout the season we have battled through some tough games, had players ejected, and lost numerous guys to injuries. But ending up as one of the top 10 teams in the nation is something we are very proud of.”
The national tournament bid comes just months after the Tigers moved into their new home to great fanfare. On Oct. 25, 2013, Wittenberg played the first college hockey game in the new National Trail Parks and Recreation Department (NTPRD) Chiller just blocks from the university’s campus in downtown Springfield. Wittenberg fans filled the Chiller to capacity that night as the Tigers picked up a 10-4 victory over Ohio Wesleyan, the start of a home schedule that included numerous boisterous home crowds.
“Having a rink we can call home has been a huge motivating factor for our team,” said Saylor, who has served as the president of the student-run club team for the last year. “The facility is one of the best I personally have ever played in, and the quality of the ice is outstanding. We even have guys showing up to practice early just to get some extra ice time.
“Having a home rink has given us the opportunity to not only get the student body involved, but the Springfield community as well.”
The Tigers have played and practiced in the Dayton suburb of Kettering in previous years, which required long drives and limited home crowds. Alex Beebe, class of 2016 from Medina, Ohio, is taking the reins of the club team, and he feels the new rink and the team’s success in the 2013-14 season will give the club a boost in the years to come.
“This is huge for our team,” Beebe said. “We are really excited to get our first chance at playing for the national championship and to be able to play new teams from far-away states. It is also another chance to get Wittenberg’s name out there at a national level.
“Playing in a hometown rink has been a big benefit. The energy from our hometown fans has helped us play harder and better than if we were playing away.”
Joining Wittenberg in the CIHA Championship Tournament are Xavier, Pittsburgh-Greensburg, California-San Diego, Medaille, Western Washington, Buffalo, Union, Hobart and the Community College of Allegheny County.
Team members include Dylan Conroy, class of 2015 from Lake Bluff, Ill.; Ben Allan, class of 2017 from Gilford, Ontario; Andrew Krall, class of 2016 from Gibsonia, Pa.; Drew Rosselot, class of 2014 from Hamilton, Ohio; David Like, class of 2015 from Grosse Pointe, Mich.; Shane Hartlaub, class of 2015 from Westerville, Ohio; Edward Brady, class of 2014 from Buckner, Ky.; Ryan Spitzer, class of 2015 from Lake Forest, Ill.; Conor O’Brien, class of 2016 from York, Maine; Kenyon Rizzo, class of 2017 from Niagara Falls, NY; Ross Watko, class of 2013 from Sewickley, Pa.; Kevin DeGulis, class of 2016 from Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Tyler Rudy, class of 2016 from Cleveland, Ohio; TJ Smith, class of 2016 from Atlanta, Ga.; Andy Kennedy, class of 2016 from Needham, Mass.; Carter Desloge, class of 2016 from St. Louis, Mo.; Mitchell Patterson, class of 2016 from Cincinnati, Ohio; Beebe and Saylor.
Written By: Ryan Maurer