Hockeys ‘Hawks ready for ACHA regionals

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Hockeys ‘Hawks ready for ACHA regionals

UNCW Club Ice Hockey

UNCW Club Ice Hockey

UNCW Club Ice Hockey

Brian Carpenter, Staff Writer

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UNC Wilmington club hockey will travel to Wesley Chapel, Florida, this weekend for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division Three South Regional Tournament.

The team will open up their regional on Friday against the Florida Gators. The game will begin at 5:15 p.m.

Eyes on the prize

“They definitely have a high skill level and they happen to be a little bit physical which is also to be expected,” said assistant coach Peter Gilinson said of the Gators.

Florida has benefited from playing multiple teams part of the regional tournament. Some of these teams include Tampa, Kennesaw State, Georgia, and Florida Gulf Coast. On paper, this will arguably the Seahawks’ greatest test this season, but UNCW knows what it must do in order to be successful.

“In terms of preparation, it is doing what we do best,” said Gilinson. “If we play disciplined hockey and play full strength, we have a shot against Florida and any of the other teams in the tournament.”

UNCW is the only regional representative outside of the states of Florida and Georgia. Six teams come from Florida and three are from Georgia, which just leaves the Seahawks.

“It means a good deal to us,” said forward Daniel Brescia. “It means something extra and it is such a special occasion. It will be a first-time experience for me and it’s something I am looking forward to.”

For senior captain Tyler Evangelous, who is wrapping up his tenure as one of the key leaders of the team, he feels like playing a home game at the Ice House is actually more nerve-wracking than playing a playoff game.

But the message for the team heading into the game is two simple words, “Be gritty.”

“From the first shift, it starts with either getting hit or giving a hit and getting into the game,” he said. “We want the other team to know that we have gotten no respect going into the weekend and that we are going to play with a chip on our shoulder the entire time.”

Carrying the legacy

With another regional tournament appearance for the Seahawks, it’s a callback to the 2014-15 team, which remain as the only team to make it to the national tournament. This edition of the Seahawks is looking to become the second in the team’s 13-season history.

The 2014-15 team got off to a slow start, starting the season 2-3. The team regrouped and the veteran experience the team featured, with a total of 12 seniors, led the Seahawks to finish with a 19-7-1 record in the regular season.

Forward Bennett Clark, now a senior and assistant captain, was a freshman that season and participated in one of the most successful seasons the hockey team has ever seen.

“Coming into UNCW on such a successful team was pretty surreal,” said Clark. “I think the thing that made that season so memorable wasn’t the fact that we won 19 games or made history in the UNCW hockey organization, it was the group of guys that we had. The camaraderie that the team had that year is what allowed us to be so successful.”

Entering the regional tournament in Orlando, Florida, the 2015 Seahawks ranked No. 8 of 10 teams. This forced the Seahawks to win two games as the lower seed, as they would go on to play No. 5 Central Florida and No. 7 Miami.

“We all knew that our ranking didn’t do us justice,” said Clark. “Every season that I have been a part of the team, we don’t get the same respect as the schools down in Florida.”

A lot of Division 3 Florida teams in the ACHA have the opportunity to play each other more often. This tends to favor the rankings when they are released before the regional tournament and can hurt where the Seahawks are ranked.

“I think that plays to our advantage because people underestimate the skill that we have as a team,” said Clark.

Heading into their games against Central Florida and Miami, the mood remained in the locker room like it did for any other game, Clark said.

“We knew what we were capable of and I think it showed on the ice. We try not to concern ourselves with what other people think because there are always going to be people that doubt you no matter what you do.”

In nationals, the team was placed in Group C along with Bryn Athyn College, Hope College and Northern Colorado. The team would end up losing all three games in group play – but hockey in Wilmington had made its footprint in a national setting.

Although UNCW isn’t even close to being known as a hockey school, the organization has grown so much over the ten plus years it has been around. For Clark, he had one major takeaway from playing at UNCW:

“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing or who you’re playing against. As long as you have a group of guys that trust and enjoy each other, you’re going to be successful.”

Updates on this year’s regional tournament can be found on achahockey.org. A live stream of UNCW’s Friday game can be found at dspnlive.com.

Staff Writer Brian Carpenter can be found on Twitter @bostonfan17856. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to uncwseahawksports@gmail.comFor video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.