By David Borne | Staff Writer
Just 15 minutes off-campus at the Alpha Ice Complex, the Duquesne Ice Hockey team is quietly putting together an impressive season and that was built upon after a 4-2 win over the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The victory made it a clean sweep of their crosstown rivals for the season series.
“It really means a lot,” senior captain Zac Kindya said. “We beat Pitt two times this year, and we beat RMU two times this year, and they’re traditionally two of the top-three teams in our league. To go 4-0 against them, it’s a big deal. It’s a goal we’ve always tried for all four years I’ve been here, and to finally do it, I can’t even put it into words. It’s great.”
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead 7:47 into the second period, but the Dukes managed to score four unanswered goals to skate away with the win. Sophomore forward Ryan Sweeney, sophomore center Tim Freed, sophomore forward Martin Hubert and junior forward Thomas Diffendal all found the back of the net for Duquesne. The forward, Diffendal, also finished the night with two assists.
First year head coach Conrad Waite believes that his team’s never-quit mentality and ability to bounce back will hopefully lead them to further success this season.
“The number one thing about I’ve noticed about this team is our resolve,” Waite said. “If we go down in a game we come back. If we’ve lost a couple games we find a way to come back. You can’t put us down. I’ve never been prouder of a team that I’ve coached in that manner. Now we’ve got five non-league games in a row, so finding that same heart we found in such a rivalry game tonight and being able to get up for those games is going to test a lot for where we end up at the end of the year.”
Goaltender Alex Taylor recognized that while beating a team like Pitt is a great feeling, it’s important for the team to not lose focus and keep playing hard.
“We have to take things one game at a time,” Taylor said. “We can’t look too far ahead and can’t look back at what we’ve done in the past.”
Taylor had 29 saves and improved his record to 11-6 on the season with the win against Pitt.
Following Friday night’s win over their crosstown rivals, the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Dukes improved their conference record to 9-4 on the season. They followed that up with a win over Canisius College to push them to 13-8 overall with 7 matches left on their regular season slate.
Even with all their success, the Dukes club ice hockey squad flies under the radar on campus.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Kindya said. “Almost no one on campus even knows this exists.”
The Dukes are a member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. The ACHA is the premier league for college club hockey teams.
This year the ACHA National Tournament will take place in Columbus, Ohio from March 9-19. Currently Duquesne’s odds to reach Nationals look decent, but they will need some help from other teams in their conference. The Dukes need Pittsburgh to lose two games against conference opponents in order to clinch a spot in the tournament. Even if the team fails to qualify for Nationals, they will still be able to compete in the playoffs.
Next up, the Red & Blue will take trips to the Philadelphia area over back-to-back weekends to take on Lehigh University, Villanova University, Temple University and Rowan University.
The next few weeks will give the Dukes some time to prepare for postseason play, and even though their chance to play in the National Tournament currently remains up in the air, the team will remained focused on putting itself in the best possible position by continuing to win against quality opponents.