Virginia Tech’s club ice hockey team returns to Blacksburg with a 9-2-0 record after this weekend’s trip up north.
Over the past month, the team has played 11 games, seven of them on the road.
With their most recent stint on the road, the team faced some of the toughest teams they will meet this season.
The task of playing these more challenging teams has helped contribute to the team’s success.
“I’d rather play a team like Towson and split a series with them than go out and play (University of Virginia) and beat them 9-1,” said junior Max Grande.
After splitting two series with Towson’s Division I team and Liberty’s Division II team, the Hokies took victories from St. Joseph’s University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Rider University on their own ice.
As of right now, the Hokies are ranked seventh in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association, but when the updated rankings are released later this week, observers favor Tech to rise toward the top of the poll.
The team has a history of falling to the mental and physical challenges that accompany away games, which contributed to the majority of last year’s losses.
“Historically, we’ve kind of blown up on the road a little bit,” Grande said.
This year, however, playing on the road has done nothing but contribute to the team’s success.
“It’s tough to travel and then play a game on the same day … it’s good to get all the guys together and be together for 48 hours straight," said junior Alec Burgman. "It builds the team chemistry."
The team crams into 12-passenger vans to make the trip to away games, which sometimes exceed five hours on the road.
The Hokies made the drive up to Maryland three weeks ago to face two MACH South division rivals, the University of Maryland and UMBC.
After a slow start against Maryland, the Hokies bounced back in the second period, scoring two goals to take a 3-0 lead. The defense then shut it down in the third period, preventing Maryland from scoring.
“I was kind of worried that we were going to overlook Maryland on Friday night,” said senior goalie Walker Detweiler.
The win launched the team into their Saturday matinee with UMBC with confidence. A sizeable turnout of Tech fans helped the team look past UMBC’s rowdy crowd and band, allowing the Hokies another win.
“It’s always a real low-scoring, physical game," Burgman said. "UMBC was a huge win."
Those two wins kept the momentum going for the following week’s series with Liberty’s D-II team.
“I don’t think they’ve really been tested yet," Grande said. "It’s always fun to play Liberty."
The Hokies came out victorious on their own ice in the first game of the series, but fell short on Saturday night after making the trip up to Lynchburg to play Liberty.
“I think we’re still a pretty confident group,” Burgman said. “We have to work out a few things in practice this week and put the last game behind us. We bounced back from the Towson loss, and I think we will bounce back from this one.”
The Hokies did just that.
Last weekend, the team traveled to New Jersey to face Rider and to Philadelphia to play St. Joseph’s. The Hokies returned to Blacksburg with two more wins under their belt, locking in a high ranking in the MACH South division.
The team hopes to continue its success over the next few weeks.
“You have to take each game going in as a new game," Grande said. "It doesn’t really matter what we did in the past, because if we’re thinking ‘Oh, these guys beat these guys, and we beat them, so we should win,’ that doesn’t work in hockey.
This weekend, Tech will return to the Roanoke Civic Center to take on Maryland and St. Joseph’s on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.