UR Men’s Ice Hockey Club captured the Upstate New York Club Hockey League (UNYCHL) championship on Saturday with an overtime win against Hamilton College. Previously, UR had defeated the Union College club team in the final four round by a score of 10–6.
The game went into overtime thanks to senior forward Kyle Schwartz’s game-tying goal with less than a minute to go. Fellow senior Zach Lewis hit the back of the net 14 seconds into overtime to win the game.
Schwartz earned MVP of the playoff season, capping off an excellent season for the senior forward in which he averaged 2.8 points per game, second in his division for total points.
The team has certainly been on the upswing. They have experienced tremendous success in the past few years, winning the league twice since the 2013-14 season.
Additionally, they have successfully established a large, consistent fan base in addition to attracting more players to the team. In each recent year, an increasing number of players have attended tryouts, fueling a competitive system which is helping the team thrive. The team is carrying on a winning tradition, solidifying themselves as a consistent contender in the league.
Although the team is losing nine seniors who make up the vast majority of their top two lines in the spring, President and senior Isaiah Patterson and Vice President and junior Kevin Bonko expressed no concern for the team’s success in the upcoming years. Each exhibited great confidence in the underclassmen, who have been working very hard in practices and who will earn starting spots in the following years.
Part of the reason the team has been so successful is the way they carry themselves and the work ethic established by coach Justin Niebel. The team dresses up for away games and take practices very seriously.
“If you don’t show up for practices, you don’t play in the games during the week,” Patterson said.
Since the squad is branded as a club team, it largely funds itself, aside from some contributions from alumni. Additionally, the players are responsible for securing their own transportation. Although they face these obstacles, they continue to value the team and its principles with sincerity.
Patterson and Bonko were both very grateful for the time and effort Coach Niebel put into the season. Niebel, an alumnus of UR, buys them tape and other hockey supplies out of his own pocket, takes time out of his daily life to attend and plan practices, and travels to games. “He genuinely cares about hockey,” Patterson said of Niebel.
The team has expressed that they would like to thank their dedicated fans from the University for giving them a fun and competitive atmosphere to play in.
Patterson and Bonko both commented on the size and consistency of the fan base this year, and said it fuels them on the ice, making them play better. The winning culture the team has developed, carrying themselves professionally and with class, has been supported by the students here at UR.