The Virginia Tech men’s ice hockey team is quietly having its best season in school history.
Why so quietly? It could be because there isn’t an ice rink located on campus (a requirement for competing at the Division-I level) or the fact that hockey itself isn’t very popular in southwest Virginia.
Despite the lack of recognition, the Hokies (13-10-2) are potentially a few wins away from their first ACHA Regional playoff appearance in school history.
“It’s pretty big,” said Andres Morales, junior forward. “With the team expanding and growing, it’s important that we take advantage of this chance (to make the playoffs).”
Morales, who also serves as the team’s president, leads the team in goals (13) and points (22). Joining him at the top of the Hokies point leaderboard are senior defenseman Joe Woermer (14 assists, 20 points) and senior forward Corey Abro (11 assists, 16 points).
Led by head coach Kevin Houghton, Tech competes at the Division-II level in the Southeast Region of the ACHA. They are currently ranked No. 7 in the region, and a top-10 finish will send them to the regional playoffs for the first time.
Last year, Tech entered the final week of the season in the top-10, only to drop to No. 11 when the final regular season rankings were released.
“After last season’s disappointing finish, we made it our initial goal this year to make the playoffs,” Morales said. “But we feel like we’re a good enough team, not only to make it to regionals, but also to nationals.”
In order for the Hokies to make the national playoffs, they’ll need to finish in the top two of the 10 teams competing at the regional tournament.
But it still remains to be seen whether Tech will make the regional playoffs — the team must take care of business in its last five games.
Even though all of these games will come away from Tech’s home ice at the Roanoke Civic Center, the Hokies have already faced two of their remaining opponents.
Although, both of those opponents — Temple and Penn State — are also vying for a Southeast regional playoff spot, the Hokies beat No. 5 Temple, 4-1, on Nov. 19 and tied No. 8 Penn State, 2-2, on Jan. 15. Morales is confident the team will handle both teams, starting with the Owls on Saturday.
“We really outplayed (Temple) the first time we played them,” Morales said. “But right now they’re sitting higher in the rankings than we are.
It’s important for us to come out and get this victory to give us a better shot at making the playoffs.”
As for the other three games, Tech will face off against less stiff competition as they travel to face Rowan (9-13-3) this Friday, then play back-to-back games on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 with The College of New Jersey (4-15-0).
If the Hokies can pull off victories in three or four of their remaining contests, the program will more than likely make history, and maybe a few waves on campus.