Allegheny Ice Hockey brings in strong first-year players

The Allegheny College Ice Hockey Club opened their season on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex with a 10-5 win over the University of Pittsburgh Greensburg. The team looks to defend its back-to-back College Hockey East Division 5 championships with another strong season, according to Coach Atlas Besenfelder, ’21.

“Being honest, coming off our second straight championship, our expectation is to win the championship again for the third time in a row,” Besenfelder said.

The team received its first victory against Pitt Greensburg and followed their opening win with a 7-3 win over Duquesne University on Saturday, Oct. 26. Captain Cameron Fisher, ’21, leads the team with 12 points through its 2-0 start — he has four goals and eight assists, according to the team’s Instagram page.

The Gators will face tougher competition this season, as they were moved from CHEs Division 5 to Division 3 because of their success at the Division 5 level, according to Fisher. He said members of the team are confident entering the season and expect their success to continue.

“(Our only expectation is) just to win,” Fisher said. “I don’t really have any other expectations. We’re at the point now where we’ve won the last two years so there really is no other expectation.”

Besenfelder said that the upperclassmen on the team may become complacent throughout the long season after winning back-to-back championships, but the first-year class helps to keep the team motivated and energized.

“What’s nice about our team specifically is that it seems each year, starting with (the 2021) class, we have very motivated (first-years),” Besenfelder said. “Two of our top four-point holders are members of the (2023) class. A motivated (first-year) class really helps because (we’ve) been there and done that.”

The team leaders in points through the first two games are Fisher with 4-8-12, Richard Froehlich, ’23, with 3-5-8, Logan Koontz, ’23, with 5-2-7 and Colin Deubell, ’22, with 2-2-4, according to the team’s Instagram page. Goalies Max Savino, ’21, and Trent Faulkner, ’20, have both collected a win on the season.

The Gators top line features Fisher, Koontz, and Froehlich, the team’s top three scorers, which highlights the infusion of talent brought by the class of 2023. Besenfelder said that the first-years boost the team’s competitive energy, which inspires the team to attend practice throughout the fall and spring semesters.

“It’s really good that the (first-years) are thirsty because they haven’t hoisted the (championship) cup up twice, they haven’t been there for the championship or the playoffs,” Besenfelder said. “It’s something they really want, so their desire keeps everyone going.”

Christian Lussier
The Gators lift the cup they won for their victory over Edinboro University on March 9, 2019.

The class of 2023 may be inexperienced in the CHE playoffs and championship, but members like Koontz understand their importance to the top line. The young members play a role in generating the motivation that the team hopes will carry it to a third championship in a row.

“The top line has some really good players,” Koontz said. “Everyone moves the puck well which creates (scoring) opportunities, and I think we’re all working well together. … All the young guys are committed and working their hardest, and it’s really helping the team dynamic. It’s a pretty close-knit group.”

While Fisher and Besenfelder plan to return to the team for their senior season next year, they hope to instill a culture of winning within the 2023 class, which is the “heartbeat of the team,” according to Fisher.

Besenfelder said that the future of the Allegheny Ice Hockey Club depends on the efforts of Fisher and himself to create an expectation of success within the 2023 class.

Christian Lussier
The Gators celebrate a goal in their 8-3 win over Edinboro University on March 9, 2019. The victory marked the team’s second consecutive CHE Division 5 title.

“If we don’t continue this winning tradition with this (2023) class, if we don’t do it next year, that culture, that mentality will be totally gone,” Besenfelder said. “We want this to keep going even when we’re gone.”

The team practices and plays its home games at the MARC, and games are free of charge to attend. According to Fisher, the team has had a strong fanbase of Allegheny students over the course of his three seasons. Besenfelder said that the student section at home games has been a large factor in their continued success.

“When we go to an away game and no one is cheering for us, and we’re just getting heckled and screamed at the entire time, obviously it’s a lot harder to play,” Besenfelder said. “It’s a lot more fun and a lot more enjoyable for us to be at a home game where everyone’s rowdy, everyone’s loud and everyone’s behind us.”

Fans may become familiar with certain players featured on the team’s Instagram page throughout the season, and Besenfelder said that the statistics posted to the page are more for the fans than the players themselves. Fisher said that unlike last year’s team, the Gators will be more balanced and receive contributions up and down their lineup.

“On a different night, someone else is picking up the torch,” Fisher said. “Every night we have a new MVP. That’s what we’re starting to notice more this year; it’s more of a team game and not just our best players versus theirs. It’s more of a team mentality this year.”

The Gators will play their next game against Pitt Greensburg on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The team will return to the MARC on Saturday, Nov. 9 to face last year’s CHE Division 3 champions Case Western Reserve University.