UD women's ice hockey team makes history with games in Alaska
1:10 p.m., Feb. 19, 2014--The University of Delaware’s women’s ice hockey club team skated its way into history recently when it played the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks in the first-ever American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) home game held in the 49th state.
The teams faced off against each other on Jan. 24 in the Patty Center on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) campus and the next day in the Carlson Center in downtown Fairbanks.
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“We have never played in front of a packed house before, and the crowds were huge,” said Bobby Crystle, head coach of the UD club team. “I think it added to the event because it showed how important it was for them and showed how much support their program has in their area.”
Playing for the first time in front of their families and friends, the Nanooks didn’t disappoint, skating to a 7-0 win in game one and taking the second 10-0.
“There were times that we outplayed them, but we just couldn’t sustain any pressure,” Crystle said. “They’re a very good team that will capitalize on any of your mistakes, and they made us pay when we did.”
The Hens were surprised that the weather in Alaska was a lot milder than the frigid Mid-Atlantic region, which was then gripped in the polar vortex, Cyrstle said.
“When we left Newark on Jan. 22, it was in the single digits after the snowstorm the day before, and when we arrived in Alaska that night it was raining and in the upper 30s,” Crystle said. “We overpacked with cold weather gear, fearing temperatures in the negative digits, but the daily highs ranged from the high 20s to low 30s. The week before we got to Fairbanks it was minus 45 degrees.”
Sarah Berkley, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that while the games did not go as well as the team would have liked, the players were excited to travel and to be the first ACHA team to play against UAF in Alaska.
“We got to see the most beautiful views and wildlife and luckily got to experience the Northern Lights,” Berkley said. “The fact that we got to experience all of it as a team made it all the better and it was definitely an experience we’ll never forget.”
The original goal for the Nanooks was to host a showcase with a couple of visiting teams participating, but UD was the only team that committed, Crystle said.
“We couldn’t pass on this type of opportunity,” Crystle said. “Not only were we part of history playing in their first-ever home games, but it also helps to promote our program here at UD.”
Helping to grow the UD women’s hockey program is both the commitment of the players and the University, Crystle said.
“We are very lucky to have such a supportive University,” Crystle said. “Having two rinks on campus is huge. Some teams that we play have to travel up to 30 minutes just to practice.”
This year the Hens are competing against the likes of West Chester University, Penn State University and California University of Pennsylvania, in addition to UAF.
Crystle said he is excited that UD will be hosting the ACHA Division 1 and Division 2 women’s national championships from March 13-16 in the Fred Rust and Gold ice arenas. The men’s Division 1 championships also will be played at UD, March 6-11 in the Fred Rust Ice Arena.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our beautiful campus and our great rinks,” Crystle said. “In the past we have traveled to Chicago, Blain, N.M., and Wooster, Ohio, just to name a few. Being able to stay home and not have to travel will be great.”
Kelley Philbin, a senior in the College of Engineering, said the team is excited about hosting the events and playing in front of families and friends and hope a large turnout will generate a good atmosphere for the home teams.
“We play on an Olympic-sized rink, which will be new to a lot of teams, so we’re hoping that will give us an edge in our games,” Philbin said. “Lastly, the men’s division will also be playing their championships here at UD, so it will be cool to be able to cheer them on and root for our school.”
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos courtesy of Bobby Crystle