On Oct. 15 it was announced that the Mercyhurst Men’s Divi-sion I hockey team would have the opportunity to start their sea-son this year. The Atlantic Hockey Association announced plans to officially start the 2020-21 Di-vision I Men’s hockey season on Nov. 13, with the Mercyhurst team currently set to have their first game on Nov. 20.
The schedule allows up to 28 matches, including 24 in-league and up to four non-conference games. Concluding the season will be the Atlantic Hockey Tour-nament. All 11 Atlantic Hockey teams are currently set to compete with a season this year.
To succeed at such a feat, the conference is being split between eastern and western pods to limit travel. Air Force is the only stand-alone team and can play games in both conferences. Mercyhurst will play Air Force by scheduling the match through Long Island University. LIU has strict testing, screening and sanitization proto-cols in place to allow Air Force to travel between pods.
Mercyhurst is set in the western pod and will play 20 games total against teams including Canis-ius, Niagara, Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert Mor-ris. The eastern pod encompasses American International College, Army, Bentley, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart.
Freshman center player Noah Kane explained his excitement to experience a collegiate game after roughly nine months of off-season training. He and other new play-ers are eager to prove themselves in real competition. Even with the difficulties included, Kane is grateful for the few months of off-season at Mercyhurst.
“It has been nice to have a few months of practice as a team, learning from the older guys and I think our coaches have done a great job easing us in,” said Kane.
Matt LaMalfa, Director of Hockey Operations agrees with Head Coach Rick Gotkin’s ex-pression of excitement toward the start of the season. LaMalfa was pleasantly surprised with the news of being able to start as early as November.
“It’s been a long, strange pre-sea-son, so having some games to look forward to is a boost for team mo-rale,” said LaMalfa.
With the hockey season now on the horizon, fans have to find creative ways to support the team from outside the rink. LaMal-fa encourages fans to follow the Mercyhurst Men’s Hockey official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to keep up-to-date in the coming weeks.
Lamalfa also hopes fans will tune into the live streams of every match, especially since many will happen over break when faculty and students are sitting around the house.
“We’d love to have them tune into one game or five,” said La-Malfa, “and maybe create some new fans out of unsuspecting fam-ily members.”
Such news promotes optimism for athletics in the Spring semester and returning fans to their right-ful place in the rink or stadium.
“Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we’re all back to packing the stands creating the ‘Laker Effect’ that makes home such a tough place to play,” said LaMalfa.
The first season match will be Nov. 21 against LIU in Brook-lyn, NY. The first home game is a non-conference match against Bowling Green on Nov. 27.
For more information be sure to stay up-to-date at www.hurstath-letics.com