David Borne | Staff Writer
With league play on the horizon, the Duquesne club hockey team is prepared to make another run at an American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I national tournament appearance. In their final series of tests before their College Hockey Mid-America conference slate begins, the Dukes (6-5-1) hosted the University of Oakland this past weekend on Oct. 20 and 21 at the Alpha Ice Complex, which is about a 20-minute drive from Duquesne’s campus.
Unfortunately for head coach Conrad Waite and his squad, the Golden Grizzlies (9-1-0) walked out of the series victorious in both games.
Friday’s matchup was relatively even, as Duquesne managed to compete with an impressive Oakland squad for the most part. However, Oakland took an early 1-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game and never lost the game’s lead.
The Dukes would quickly retaliate, as sophomore Ben Korpiel knotted the score just under three minutes later as he knocked a loose puck past Oakland’s scrambling goalie Ian Dvorak.
Oakland responded with consecutive goals, and the Dukes trailed 3-1 with 10:54 remaining in the final period.
Duquesne sophomore forward Jason Bechtel managed to trim the deficit to one just 58 seconds later, but his goal would be Duquesne’s last of the evening.
In the game’s final minute, the Golden Grizzlies capitalized on a Duquesne turnover and Chandler Gillespie beat junior goaltender Alex Taylor with 0:36 left on the clock, sealing Oakland’s 4-2 victory.
“I thought we played a good first game Friday night,” Taylor said. They were big and fast, and we stuck with them. Some bad breaks, but that’s how the game goes.
“Saturday, we showed that we weren’t ready to play. Right from puck drop, they took the game to us and got to a big lead we couldn’t come back from.”
As Taylor mentioned, Saturday’s game was a much different story. Oakland came out hot, netting four goals in the game’s first period. The rout continued for the next 40 minutes of play, and Oakland closed out the weekend with a 9-3 win.
“We had points in the game where we showed how good we can be, [capable of outplaying] a good team like Oakland, but it’s just a matter of bringing it for a full 60 minutes,” Duquesne’s netminder added Saturday.
Beyond Oakland’s stellar on-ice product, the series with Oakland was particularly interesting, as their program was just recently selected as the second club hockey team in the nation to receive funding for an NCAA feasibility study. The study analyzes how much it would cost for a university to transition from club-level hockey to that of a D-I program. The Detroit Red Wings are funding Oakland’s portion of the study.
Up to five schools will be selected for the feasibility study, and Waite hopes that with the help of the Penguins, either Duquesne or the University of Pittsburgh will be considered.
“I think Pitt or Duquesne would both be primed to take advantage of it. With Pitt, it’s the size of their school and the success of their athletics. For Duquesne, with our proximity to the Penguins’ arena, I think it’s something we could take advantage of,” Waite said.
Coach Waite added that the chance of being included in the study won’t be possible without the help from Duquesne University.
“My understanding of the way the study works is it’s instigated by the schools. It’s not a conversation we’ve had with Duquesne University,” Waite said.
“It’s something, obviously as a team and program, we’d be very interested in doing, but it would take the support of the school behind us to be able to be considered for the study.”
Duquesne’s next test will come this weekend, when they take on Mercyhurst on Oct. 28 at 9:30 p.m. at Alpha Ice Complex.
On Sunday, Oct. 29, fans will have a unique opportunity to see Duquesne’s annual charity game versus CHMA rival Robert Morris at 3 p.m. Students can purchase tickets from the Residence Hall Association that will cover both transportation and admission costs for $10, as three shuttles will be available to transport students to-and-from the Alpha Ice Complex. All proceeds will go to the St. Anthony’s Special Needs Program.
With league play opening up, Taylor and his team understand that it’s time to really get down to business and play to their best ability.
“With some big weekends coming up, it is time for us to find out what team we want to be. No one is going to lay down for us; we have to go out there and take it from them.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game are available at the Office of Residence Life in Assumption Hall on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.