Roller hockey finds success after resurrection

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A six-week winter break was cherished by many, but for some, it interfered with athletic play.

DePaul Roller Hockey is coming off of a long holiday break off of the rink. Amongst their opponents, DePaul is a lonely candidate for the quarter system. It’s times like now that DePaul Roller Hockey utilizes every slot of rink time they can get.

“We’re really looking forward to the second half of our season, especially after the long break.  We had a solid first half, but (we) are really hoping to pick it up these next few weekends,” forward Kyle Brinkworth said.

DePaul’s academic schedule often interferes with the team’s momentum. The team takes the winter break off and the guys travel home for the holidays. Now back in session, the team has some practices under their belt and are looking to bounce back to secure a top seed in the division.

The Midwest Collegiate Roller Hockey League (MCRHL) welcomed the DePaul Roller Hockey Club to the competitive league in the 2014-2015 season. The previous year, the team fell apart after the departure of graduating seniors.

This was the first year for current DePaul Roller Hockey teammates Evan Schirle, Kyle Brinkworth and Michael Lewis.

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The club roller hockey team was resurrected in 2014 and now is chasing a berth in the national tournament. (Photo courtesy of DEPAUL ROLLER HOCKEY)

Now in their senior year, the three hold the top executive positions for the student-run club team, Schirle the President, Lewis the Vice President and Brinkworth the Treasurer.

Being a part of the MCRHL for the last three seasons, DePaul faces some of the top talent and competition in the Midwest. The Division II squad regularly battles against Michigan, Ohio State, Akron, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Grand Valley State. Acting as a tournament team, DePaul travels to ends of the Midwest throughout fall and winter weekends.

The team is equipped with talented players with experience in both roller and ice hockey. This has elevated the team’s level of play, as the players coming from different backgrounds adapt to the new style and tone of the team. 

“A few of our new guys have serious experience playing at a high level, so we’ve really been able to feed off of them and bring the entire team to the next level,” Brinkworth said.

Over the course of the last few seasons, the team has been in a constant rebuild. Players come and go, injuries occur and students graduate. Now with a sufficient, committed team, the hotels during away tournament weekends are filled and carpooling is in full effect. The team’s budget has grown to accommodate the team to weekly practices.

“In previous years our practices were very limited, so having weekly practices this year has been huge.  For the last couple seasons, practices were mostly for putting on the skates again and just staying comfortable out on the rink.  But with weekly practices that comes naturally and we can focus more on specific things like our power play, breakout and 2-on-1’s,” Schirle said.

DePaul’s current record is 4-2-1. They started off the season hot with a 3-game sweep and brought that momentum to Ohio. This winning record establishes their most successful season to date.

And it’s not over yet.

DePaul Roller Hockey’s next tournament is this weekend, hosting a home Inter-Regional tournament in Palatine, IL.  Shortly following this weekend, DePaul travels to Michigan twice, for tournaments in Novi and Kalamazoo. These tournaments are crucial for the team’s standings.

After that? Well, that’s up to the team.

“This weekend will be a big weekend for us to establish ourselves at the top of the conference. We will have an opportunity to get our second win against Northern Illinois, and will have the chance at a rematch against Ohio State who beat us in our first game this season,” goaltender Mike Lewis said.

“One goal is clear in all of our heads this year: make it to Nationals.  For the first time since we resurrected the club in 2014, we have a real shot at getting a bid,” Brinkworth said. “This is something that everyone on the team wants and it would be even sweeter to the guys who have been through all the struggles over the last couple years.”

As these three seniors, and the rest of the DePaul club eye the big prize, three tournaments stand in their way.

“The amount of commitment by everyone is something we’re really proud of and is a real distinction from years past.  It’s nice going from tournament to tournament knowing that everyone is going to be there and that we won’t just have the bare minimum number of guys to actually play.  There were too many weekends in years past where we struggled to get even four skaters to the tournaments.  As we pass down the torch, my only hope is that the club doesn’t have to suffer those horrific weekends like we did in the beginning,” Brinkworth said.