Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
“Every time we play Pitt, it’s always a tough game, but we need to ignore all the distractions and play Duquesne hockey,” junior goaltender Alex Taylor told The Duke regarding the importance of Duquesne’s 7 o’clock game on Nov. 17 versus CHMA rival Pitt at PPG Paints Arena.
While Friday night’s spectacle is largely driven by the fact that Duquesne’s club ice hockey team gets to play at the state-of-the-art home of the NHL’s Penguins, many members of Duquesne’s hockey team covet the opportunity for another reason: the chance to spike campus awareness of the program by playing such a high-profile game close to the Bluff.
“I think it’s frustrating that we, as a team, don’t really get any recognition on campus,” senior captain Thomas Diffendal said. “That’s something we’re really trying to improve [upon] this year, and the City Game is a major step in the process.”
Diffendal, a senior forward from Caraopolis, Pennsylvania, currently leads all Division I ACHA scorers with 37 points through 18 games. Additionally, Duquesne (10-7-1) leads its division with 22 points, though Robert Morris (Pa.) sits with 21 despite having played three less games than the Dukes.
Pitt (9-5-0) sits in fifth place with 18 points through only 14 games.
Regardless of how successful Duquesne’s hockey team has been recently, the team struggles to attract students to its games, being that the Dukes regularly play their home contests at Alpha Ice Complex, a rink situated 20 minutes northeast of campus.
That being said, Taylor’s remark about playing ‘Duquesne hockey’ is ironic in that even though Duquesne’s program is building a successful identity in the local college hockey scene, many on Duquesne’s campus have no idea that the team even exists.
However, regardless of how badly those involved with the hockey program long for heightened student involvement, the general feeling of excitement that comes along with playing in an NHL arena far outweighs any nagging desires for students to finally take notice of how successful Duquesne hockey has become in recent years.
“For most players, they haven’t played in professional venues before, and to play a game for our school [at PPG Paints Arena] will be a lifelong memory for everyone involved,” Diffendal remarked. Diffendal said he chose Duquesne largely because it is his father’s alma mater.
Taylor added, “for the program, it is such a big deal to play at PPG [Paints Arena]. The hockey team has not done this [since 2011], and the fact we are the ones playing in this game, … It’s a big deal to all of us.”
Head coach Conrad Waite, a former Duquesne club hockey player himself, said that above all else, taking the initiative to orchestrate the game was founded in a desire to give his players an experience that they’ll never forget.
“My goal, first and foremost, [was] to make it an awesome experience for everybody playing, and then to try to drive interest in the program,” Waite told The Duke. “To be able to play a high-profile game like [this] is pretty awesome for the players and for the program.”
The game provides Duquesne students a unique opportunity, as well: Hang out in a calm PPG Paints Arena on a Friday night for a cool $10, all while supporting Duquesne’s hockey club.
“It’s a challenge to get students out to our arena,” Waite admits, while joking, “to be able to see a game for $10 at PPG Paints Arena is a steal for anybody.”
General admission tickets will be on sale at the arena’s box office all the way up until puck drop.
“As good [of] a level of hockey as we have, and as much as it has grown, and respect for it has grown over the years, we still don’t get a lot of credit being [that we are] a club team,” Waite remarked.
Hopefully, Friday night’s game versus school rival Pitt on the city’s grandest hockey stage will help to change that.