From September to February, the club ice hockey team has a packed schedule: practice five days a week and one or two games per weekend.
The Lehigh men’s ice hockey team is about as serious as it gets when it comes to club sports.
Playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) league at the Division I level, the Mountain Hawks play teams such as Navy, Temple, Villanova and Lafayette.
This season, the team consisted of 20 players and first-year coach Josh Hand.
Hand, who worked in Lehigh’s athletic development department, heard about the job opening last year, applied, and said he was “lucky enough to get it.”
“It’s a bit of a process to try and build a consistent winning club hockey team,” Hand said. “I didn’t know too much about the team, I just knew there was a lot of good guys who cared about it and the school in general.”
Working with a new coach came a whole new training regimen and attitude. Prior to Hand leading the team, there were only two practices and two games a week.
“Any club sport is driven by the students, and how serious they want to take things is really up to them,” Hand said. “I think their schedule dictates that and the whole group really wanted to work hard.”
Senior Keith Calvaruso credits Hand with making the club team more serious and said he believes Hand’s coaching style will continue to positively impact the team.
“Since the new coaching staff, the program is on a pretty good uptrend and it’s only going to get better,” Calvaruso said. “It’s more structured and organized, with more expectations put on us by the coaching staff and more expectations put on the coaching staff by us. It’s a beneficial reciprocated relationship.”
Calvaruso transferred to Lehigh his sophomore year and had been in touch with the coaching staff before arriving.
Similar to Calvaruso, freshman Sam Geroux came to Lehigh hoping to continue playing hockey, which he loved growing up.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was 4,” Geroux said. “I had a sense of how the team would look from having a couple of friends on the team from my hometown. This year was going to be different with a new coach and was going to be more of a rebuilding year.”
And a rebuilding year it was.
Despite the challenging schedule, the addition of new players and dealing with several injuries, the Mountain Hawks went from winning two games last year to winning six this season. They’ve beaten Lafayette for the last three years and hope to continue that going forward.
Regardless of the fact that it is a club team, the players are trying to get more recognition from the university.
The Lafayette and senior night games attract crowds, but typically the stands at the Steel Ice Center are not full.
Calvaruso said he believes students don’t attend more games because they are not aware of how close the rink is — about one-mile away from campus.
“They think they’re going to have to get an Uber and that it’s 20 minutes away,” Calvaruso said.
Playing hockey isn’t the only activity the team does together. A lot of the team members are in fraternities and spend their time doing community service. They attend special needs hockey games and clean up the rink.
Calvaruso said being part of the team, made his three years at Lehigh really special.
“It’s like a secondary group of brothers at Lehigh,” Calvaruso said. “A really close group of guys, like a family. It’s another outlet for meeting people and making some close friends throughout the years.”