Dub Hockey preps for national tournament

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Dub Hockey preps for national tournament

Dub Hockey celebrates their regional victory in late February.

Dub Hockey celebrates their regional victory in late February.

Dub Hockey celebrates their regional victory in late February.

Dub Hockey celebrates their regional victory in late February.

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

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If you’ve been on UNCW’s campus any given Friday, chances are you’ve heard them on Chancellor’s Walk. And if you haven’t already, you’ll definitely learn about them in the coming weeks.

The UNCW club hockey team has enjoyed their most successful season to date during the school year. But it’s not over yet.

After upset victories over the University of Central Florida and the University of Miami in late February at the ACHA Southern Regional, Dub Hockey earned a spot at the Division III national tournament for the first time in program history.

The team will travel to Pelham, Ala., next week to compete in the tournament. They’re just asking for a bit of help along the way.

Dub Hockey is looking to raise $15,000 to help fund the trip, with the money going towards a charter bus, hotel, and other various travel expenses.

As of late Tuesday night, the team has already raised over $8,000 on their gofundme.com page. Multiple fundraising events have been held throughout the past week as well, including a skating session at the Wilmington Ice House on Saturday night, and raffle event at King Neptunes on Wednesday.

All of these events have been in effort to make the trip to Alabama as smooth as possible for one of UNCW’s most popular sports teams.

“Every year our goal seems to be is that we want to make the regional tournament,” said UNCW club hockey president Kevin Mullaney. “That’s the top 10 teams in the southern region of the four regions of the ACHA, which is the league we play in. We always want to be in the top 10 and make it there. The past five years we’ve been in the top 10, but we’ve never won a game in regionals, and you have to win two games in the regional tournament to make it to nationals. The expectation is that we always want to make regionals.”

Dub Hockey exceeded those expectations after winning 14 out of 16 contests between October and January of this year. The team’s record was good enough for them to earn the No. 8 seed in the ACHA Southern Regional late last month.

After a 3-2 victory over UCF in the opening game, UNCW was able to earn a bit of payback with a 6-5 overtime victory over Miami, a team that defeated the Seahawks last year on their way to clinching a berth in the national tournament.

Miami defeated UNCW in double overtime in 2014 to punch their ticket to the national tournament, an extra source of motivation for the team entering their game against the Hurricanes in February.

“We’ve been on the doorstep the past four, five years,” said UNCW coach Bryan Hapeman. “Last year we lost in double overtime (to University of Miami) at regionals. Part of it has been their experience the past few years. I think that made a big difference. The fact there are so many seniors as a group, that’s helped a lot, too. The team, the younger guys, realized how important it is for the seniors and the time they’ve spent together. They want to do good for them so they know what it’s like to go to nationals and have a great final year.”

The veteran-laden Seahawks enter next week’s tournament as underdogs in a pool that includes last year’s national runner-up Hope College. Bryan Athyn College, the No. 1 team in the Atlantic Region, and Northern Colorado complete Pool C of the national tournament.  

UNCW will play each in round-robin play Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, before semifinal games begin Friday. After round-robin competition is complete, the top team from each pool advances to the final four.

The team has already built a rabid fan base on campus with their unconventional style of advertising, with the team selling out every home game at the Wilmington Ice House this year except one. Team members can be found skating down Chancellor’s on home game days announcing the team’s event that evening.

“Our chanting going down Chancellor’s, some people don’t like that at all,” Mullaney said. “They find it super annoying, but they know we have a game. Whether you want to know it or not, you know we’re playing Friday night.”

Making UNCW’s presence in the national tournament that much more remarkable is them being the first hockey team from North Carolina to earn a trip to nationals.

UNCW enters the tournament as one of the best-rounded teams in the field, with only one player being ranked in the top 70 players in the country in points, as Giovanni LaManna leads the team with 43 points.

Now, ahead of the most important week in program history, UNCW is hoping to find their stride as the tournament approaches.

“I think we’re just starting to play our best hockey,” Hapeman said. “I think that a lot of this, when you get in the situations in the playoffs, no matter what sport, a lot of it has to do with being hot at a certain time, things coming together at the right time and being lucky. I think we have those things going for us and we’ve worked really hard this year, we’ve prepared, and I think we’ll be confident going into this.”