Ice hockey skates past opponents with playoffs near

Matt Good, ’23, ready for action as he awaits as he watches the play develop waiting for his chance to strike.

The Meadville Area Recreation Complex is home to many teams across the high school and collegiate level, including the Allegheny Ice Hockey Club. This past year, the team has recorded an 8-3 record and is on the verge of making the Upstate New York Club Hockey League playoffs.

The Ice Hockey team draws an impressive crowd to their games.. The MARC is only five minutes off of campus, and the arena is packed like a can of sardines during showtime. The energy is electric, and the crowd is thunderous.

Many of the players representing the team are two-sport athletes or a part of a fraternity. They get support from their friends on a regular basis and show out on the ice, giving them something to cheer about.

“We gather friends from clubs and groups,” said team member Christopher Andolina, ’24. “It means a lot. We are not a NCAA sport, but I feel like we get (the same amount), if not more (fans) than other sports on campus. It is really fun.”

Aside from the MARC, the Gators also travel to their opponents’ rinks at Division I schools and higher. Gannon University, a regular-season foe, hosts games at Erie Insurance Arena, home of the Erie Otters — a major junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League — who have housed players including Travis Dermott of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tim Connolly of the New York Islanders.

Connor McDavid also was a member of the Otters during their 2014 and 2015 playoff runs. During the ’15 postseason, McDavid scored 21 goals in 20 games, offering only 28 attempts toward the net. Gator Matt Good, ’23, was able to witness his stardom with Erie, as he has now transitioned into a phenom with the Edmonton Oilers.

“I got to see him when he played there,” Good said. “It is kind of cool to be on the ice where he was.”

One of the team’s most riveting experiences, according to the Allegheny players, was their business trip up to Robert Morris University, where they ironically played St. Vincent in a regular-season match last year. The college gave both teams an unforgettable memory.

The lights reflected bright off the ice, and as players came out of the tunnel the PA announcer came across the speakers introducing each roster. RMU also filmed the game so Allegheny and St. Vincent could play back a fond remembrance down the line.

“They made it feel like we were on a D1 team,” said Andolina. “It was really awesome.”

This is the first year the Gators are playing in the UNYCHL. Previously, they were members of the College Hockey East League, and would require travel out towards Cleveland via a team bus, which could take upwards of three-and-a-half hours.

Now, carpooling is the new memo, getting to the rink using personal vehicles. This allows for more budget space through Allegheny Student Government, Good explained. The Gators were also provided with two sets of jerseys, one pair of pants and two pairs of long socks. However, the rest of their equipment, likesticks, skates, head gear, extra padding and more, has to come at personal expense.

Much of the team, including Andolina and Tyler Miller, ’24, grew up playing the game, which has allowed for Allegheny to consistently put quality rosters together. Starting at a young age, both men played throughout high school and were formidable players on the ice. Other members, including Good, grew up watching the game.

Good would regularly attend his friends’ games at Fox Chapel Area High School, where he would get time on the rink to shoot around with the team. When he arrived at Allegheny, he became more than just a “shootaround for fun” type of guy. He joined the Gators roster his first year, and has been a reliable asset to the club throughout his tenure.

In some years there has been trouble finding enough players to fill the lineup, given that it is a club sport and there is no official recruiting. However, that did not stop Allegheny from making the playoff semi-finals last year, with another chance to repeat an impressive season coming at the end of February.

“We’re in a good spot,” Andolina said. “It is coming down to seeding. We will see where we are at and see who we will (be) playing in the first round of playoffs.”

Allegheny’s most recent victory came against Gannon on Saturday, Jan. 28, in a 6-5 tight knit, physical battle — a fight broke out early in the game. On the ice, Logan Koontz, ’23, led the entourage with a game-high four goals, tying his single-game scoring record in which he hit twice earlier this season. Gannon is a likely early-playoff opponent for the Gators.

The Gators will be back in the MARC on Saturday, Feb. 11, to face off against Medaille University. With only a couple of games to go before playoffs ensue, Allegheny is hoping to close out the season strong and bid for a top spot in the seeding process.