DePaul club hockey puts the competition on ice

Get used to hearing about DePaul club hockey, because this squad may be the best team on campus so far.

DePaul’s emerging hockey club has already won its first six games. They outscored Lewis 26-3 in a two-game set Sept. 21- 22, and followed with a sweep in two games against Missouri State.

“This team will be a force to be reckoned with,” freshman goalie Nick Vittorio said.

Though they’re proud of what they have accomplished so far, the team still has a full schedule ahead of them. Placed against big name schools like Notre Dame, Northern Illinois and University of Iowa, they have no plans to be fully content just yet.

“(We) have to continue to strive to do even better. I’m really excited about the potential we have this season,” Vittorio said. He credits their recent success to the team chemistry achieved so soon into the season.

Senior forward John Orrico is a proponent of the team’s noticeable chemistry as well.

“The boys are really great,” he said. “I’m actually a transfer student from way up north in Fargo, North Dakota by Minnesota. I came down here and they were really welcoming. Everyone enjoys each other, respects each other. It’s a really good thing.”

As their club website so confidently states, their utmost goal is “to rank within the top ten Central Region ranking (to) allow the team to compete in the regional tournament and travel to the national tournament play in February.” This may seem downright impossible for a club team, but the Blue Demons hockey club appears to be a different animal. Through six games, they have a plus-34 goal differential and only one game has been even marginally close.

For those who follow the NHL, you might know that hockey can be a pretty physical sport. While Vittorio usually lets his defensemen handle the team brawls, he took it to a personal level during just their second game against Lewis.

“I lost my cool with about five minutes left in the game and fought … It’s just a part of the game,” he said. So what is a typical injury in the sport? “A couple slashes to the ribs and then one across the face,” he said.

The team gets its next opportunity to mow down an opponent Oct. 11 at the ACHA Showcase in Michigan.

But their toughest opponent may come after that three-game set: Miami of Ohio, a Division I school that could pack a punch on the ice. But the task doesn’t faze the team. Jack Rezente, who is a member of the practice squad as an injury replacement should a player go down, feels that the team is playing at a very high level.

“Lately, our control of the puck, our passing, has been going really well,” he said. “Whenever a team shoots it out of the zone, generally we have enough talent, speed and rigor to attack their end most of the game. We’ve been very dominant, especially on power plays.”

It’s a grind for the team, which often plays three games in three days-a grueling prospect even for professional players. In addition, the season starts in September and stretches into the end of February, and the players sometimes have to play four games in a week. Practice and hard work is necessary to stay in shape and keep legs fresh as the season wears on. The players know that they have to keep a firm regimen to ensure that they have a chance to reach their ultimate goal by season’s end.

“We have some really good talent, actually a bunch of guys with really good talent,” Orrico said. “We want to go as far as we can. We really think that would be a national tournament appearance. Right now, we’re getting close, but that’s our main focus.

A club team in a tournament? It may sound ridiculous, but the way this team is playing, it seems like anything can happen.

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