A (new) old league and hopes for a better regular season are goals for the Virginia Tech club hockey team, which has begun its 2017-2018 campaign but doesn’t open at home until October 13 vs. West Virginia. A day later on Saturday the 14th the Hokies battle UVA at the Berglund Center, a game that has drawn as many as 3000-4000 fans in the past.
General Manager Chris Arnold says a myriad of injuries last season held Tech back and kept them out of the playoffs in route to a very subpar 7-21 record. “Still somehow we wound up ranked in the Top 25,” notes Arnold. That ranking was in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division II level, in the Southeast Division.
This season the Hokies return to the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League, where they had played before. Arnold says the league stretches from Philadelphia to Charlotte, but it will be less travel for the team with most road trips three hours or less.
Virginia is the defending champion of the ACCHL. “They are going to be something for us to contend with.” At that game on October 14 former Virginia Tech head coach Mike Spradlin will be inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame.
Tech players do not receive scholarships and in fact have to pony up $1800 out their own pockets for the privilege of playing. “Its true love of hockey,” says Arnold. A lack of available ice time for practice at the Berglund Center can mean long treks from Blacksburg to Lynchburg and the LaHaye Ice Center at Liberty.
Once again the roster is a mix of veterans and newcomers. “We do have pretty good speed. Once these kids learn how to play together I think we’re going to see good things out of them,” notes Arnold, who sees the team being more defensive oriented as well this season.
Joe Mullen returns as the head coach; his brother Jared is an assistant, as is former Roanoke Express player Jeff Loder.
Adult tickets are $5 with $2 tickets for kids under 12, and students and employees connected to Virginia Tech. A number of games are in the afternoon, which Arnold says is ideal for families.
As for the Hokies, “these kids are out there every night busting their butts … for the love of the game,” said Arnold. “We need to have the fans get behind us.”