UNCW Club Ice Hockey
The UNC Wilmington club hockey season came to an end last Saturday, Feb. 24, in Wesley Chapel, Florida, in a loss to Georgia Tech. Despite the loss, the Seahawks can hang their helmets on one of the most successful seasons in the team’s 13-year history.
In the 18 games the Seahawks played this season (including regionals), the UNCW went 15-2-1, including a 10-0-1 record at the Wilmington Ice House. They also picked up a win in regionals with a 5-0 win against the Florida Gators.
The team was led in scoring by freshman Joey Alexander (with 38 points) and he credited the team leadership for how much he was able to accomplish.
“I’ve had a lot of great leaders this season such as Tyler (Evangelous), Benny (Clark) and Kyp (Cooperrider) as well as the other seniors,” said Alexander. “The team won’t be the same without them.”
Alexander also wanted to give credit to first-year head coach Matt Huestis, who he said did an amazing job for the team and was glad that he was the coach in Alexander’s first season.
The seniors played a key role in the leadership and production of the Seahawks. Despite this being the final year for them, for Daniel Howell, he sees a bright future ahead for the hockey program going forward.
“UNCW’s hockey program has a bright future, especially with all of the homegrown talent,” said Howell. “Over half of our players played either here in Wilmington or Raleigh. It all starts with the youth programs and their excellence that has trickled down.”
One of the biggest storylines coming into the 2017-18 season was the goaltending situation for the Seahawks and how would it perform with new goalies coming in. The Seahawks replaced Nick Lenker, who started three seasons for UNCW, with freshman Ryan Besemer.
For Besemer, he felt that his performance wasn’t his very best despite picking up two shutouts. But for Howell and Alexander, Besemer’s play provided a confidence factor for the team, knowing that if the Seahawks made a mistake, he was there to bail them out.
“Having a freshman goalie come in, being as good as he was and having the composure he showcased throughout the season made it easy to know that if you made a mistake, he would be there to bail you out,” said Howell.
“Ryan is a solid goaltender,” said Alexander. “He kept us in a few games where we weren’t playing well, and we built off of his momentum and won those games. He’s going to be a staple of our team for the next few years.”
Besemer said that he felt a tremendous amount of pressure heading into this season replacing Lenker. But overall, he just wanted to show enough composure on the ice and focus on helping the team win and giving the seniors one last memorable season.
“As a goalie, it is very important to stay calm and collected. While there was plenty of times I wanted to yell at the refs, it was important for me to stay calm so that I could play my best and give the guys a chance to win every game,” he said.
With a bunch of roster turnaround expected between now and the new season starting in September, it’s hard to predict what next season’s squad will look like. But just like for any season for UNCW, expectations will remain high.
“Personally, I think the goal should be the same as it was this year as it is every year, to get to nationals and hopefully even do better once we get there,” said Besemer. “You always want to strive for the absolute best and I believe no matter what teams we play or what our team will look like, we will have the opportunity to play at the level that is required to get there.”
Besemer said he’s looking forward to filling up the Ice House again and he has high hopes for continuing the growth of the program.
As a parting message, Howell wanted to say one thing to the fans who consistently filled up the Ice House each time the Seahawks had a home game:
“Thank you. Thank you for showing Seahawk pride. Thank you for giving us something to play for – your support means the world to us and is why we love playing in front of you.”
Staff Writer Brian Carpenter can be found on Twitter @bostonfan17856. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to [email protected] For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.