Virginia men’s club ice hockey looks to repeat last year’s success

Cavaliers take on James Madison Friday night

sp-ClubIceHockey-CourtesyUVAIceHockey

The Virginia men's club ice hockey team take on rival James Madison Friday night at 9 p.m.

Courtesy U.Va. Club Hockey

The Virginia men’s club ice hockey team had a simple goal heading into this season after winning its first ACCHL championship since 2000 last year.

“To repeat in an even more dominating fashion,” senior defenseman Henry Pollock said. 

It’s been exactly that for the Cavaliers, as they currently boast a 6-0 record and come off a very successful weekend in North Carolina where they won three-consecutive games against NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Charlotte. 

“We want to dominate the league and win every game by a wide margin,” Pollock said. 

Pollock’s words reverberated through the locker room and inspired action, as the Cavaliers outscored the three North Carolina teams 18-9.

This Virginia team has not skipped a beat despite losing a solid core of eight seniors last year, which could have eaten away at the team’s depth. Fifth-year graduate forward Kevin McCollum rejected the notion that the team lost depth, especially with the influx of highly-talented freshmen and transfers. 

“I think it’s worth saying one of the things I’ve always liked about our team is the depth we had,” McCollum said. “We have a parity on our team unlike any other team in the league — if you look at the stats, no one really stands out. Up and down our lineup, we have skill, and that’s why I think our team has done so well in the past few years.”

Virginia’s success can be accredited to the team’s strong work ethic, as well as the experience of many of its older players, who have been playing since their childhood. This includes Pollock and McCollum, who both have been with the team for at least four years and strive to be leaders for their new teammates. 

The Cavaliers seem to work just as hard as their NCAA counterparts. Players strive to make their teammates better every day and to ensure that everyone is on the same page come game day by dedicating themselves to two practices a week — on Monday nights at 10:45 p.m. and Thursday mornings at 7:45 a.m. The players self-run their own practices once a week and incorporate drills that they have taken from playing high-school or travel hockey. 

McCollum said that the practices are “extremely constructive and important,” as it allows for him to learn about the skillsets of his new players and learn their respective playing styles so that they can build a strong rapport during games. 

“We push each other every practice because we all have the same goal at the end of the day, and that’s winning another championship,” McCollum said.

Winning a back-to-back ACCHL championships would be a tremendous feat for the Virginia men’s hockey team. It would truly be the icing on the cake for a team, which is likely spending its last season playing in the downtown Charlottesville Main Street Arena after Taliaferro Junction, LLC and Jaffray Woodriff purchased the rink. There have been unbelievable memories for both fans and the players who have enjoyed their Friday and Saturday evenings getting rowdy and playing their hearts out. 

“[Losing the rink is] a pretty unfortunate thing,” Pollock said. “It’s definitely disappointing to see, but the team understands the economics of the situation.” 

As the longest-tenured player, McCollum feels a deep connection to the rink. 

“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be a little emotional leaving this year,” McCollum said. “I’ve played on the team for the past five years and it has been a really big part of my life. I’ve made a ton of great friends along the way, and I just really look forward to playing each and every week. Main Street Arena was one of the cooler hockey rinks I’ve ever played at being situated right on the downtown mall.”

The Cavaliers will enjoy what's left of its time this season, as they take on rival James Madison Friday night at 9 p.m.

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