The Lehigh men’s club ice hockey team will carry out its own iteration of the Lehigh-Lafayette battle on Friday, Nov. 16 as it takes on the Leopards in an annual rivalry week contest.
The team is anticipating the game with similar fervor
“I think our spirit is awesome,” said Josh Hand, the team’s first-year head coach. “I think we have a really special group of guys who really care about the school, and care about each other, and care about the hockey program. Obviously, any time you play a rival, that emotion is heightened for everybody.”
The Le-Laf game is one of the most attended hockey games of the year, filling up the stands at the Steel Ice Center on First Street.
“I know how packed it gets,” Hand said. “I know how awesome are our fans are, and the atmosphere gets really exciting. So I’m excited for that.”
Hand previously attended the Le-Laf hockey game as a fan in the stands. In his first year coaching the team, he is looking forward to working with the players to lead it to a victory.
Hand is not the only person excited for the matchup — the team is also getting pumped for the Rivalry game.
“I am most excited because fans come out to support this game,” said senior defenseman Eric Del Gizzo. “Lafayette buses kids over too. It makes the game mean a lot more, and we want to make the school proud.”
Senior forward Keith Calvaruso said loves the back-and-forth between Lehigh and Lafayette fans.
In years past — in the spirit of the rivalry — Lafayette fans have targeted members of the team. Fans have even yelled the names of Calvaruso’s family members to taunt him.
“As a fan, you’re right in the mix of it,” Del Gizzo said. “The Lafayette fans are right there, and there’s a lot of foolery going on.”
The Mountain Hawks defeated the Leopards in this matchup every year going back to the 2012-13 season. Del Gizzo said one of the best parts of the game is looking at the scoreboard and seeing the victory.
Both Del Gizzo and Calvaruso said they were proud to have won every matchup against Lafayette since their first year at Lehigh.
But Hand said the team is preparing for the game like any other contest.
“We need to get points… and we need to execute the things that we can control,” Hand said.
Del Gizzo said the team has been preparing for the matchup by practicing on the ice five out of seven days per week, in addition to workouts at the gym, lifting for muscle strength.
“Our guys have worked tremendously hard every day to sort of rebuild and improve from last year,” Hand said. “That’s sort of how we gauge our success. Every day we are getting better.”
Last year, the team’s win against Lafayette was one of just four during its entire 24-game season.
This season, Lehigh stands at 4-7 and has stayed much more competitive in its losses, carrying a goal differential of -2 heading into the rivalry tilt. The team scored a season-high 10 goals against Temple on Oct 6.
However, it riding a three-game losing streak and Del Gizzo said the team is dealing with injuries, with the hope for recovery by the time of the rivalry game.
The opening face-off will be at 7:45 on Friday night at the Steel Ice Center.