Senior Shawn Lynch sees a silver lining to Temple not having a varsity ice hockey program.
“I knew if [Temple’s] was a varsity program, I would not have had a chance to make the team,” said Lynch, a forward and captain on the club ice hockey team.
Assistant captain Jerry Roberts and many of his teammates share the same sentiments. Club or varsity, they are all eager to seize the opportunities to play college hockey.
The program has had great success over the past few seasons. Each of the last three seasons has culminated in the players hoisting the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference championship trophy. The team switched to the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association this season with hopes of taking the program to the next level.
The Owls credit all of their success to hard work on and off the ice. Because the Owls do not have NCAA affiliation, the team usually makes its own financial decisions, roster changes, and recruitment obligations. They also promote the sport within the university and its student body.
Renting ice time is the most daunting task, the players said. Blocks of time cost about $250 to $300 an hour. The team practices two times a week in preparation for their weekends, which are typically highlighted by two games.
But the $700 stipend that each player forks over at the beginning of the year pales in comparison to the thousands of dollars that it can cost to play on a high school club team. Temple covers the other half of their budget, which comes to an approximate total of $42,000.
The Owls are only allowed to dress 22 players per game by American Collegiate Hockey Association rules, but carry 30 players on their roster. Therefore, there are seven players each game who are forced to helplessly root on their teammates from the stands.
“Ability, effort and attitude are the three keys that I teach the guys on this team from the very first meeting of the season,” coach Jamie Sabbatini said. “That is how I determine who plays each week, and you must have all three to contribute to this team. A guy can have all of the ability in the world, but if his attitude isn’t right, he is just not going to play.
When high school prospects look into the stands, they won’t see the coach or an assistant meticulously monitoring their recruiting visit, as with varsity programs. Instead, the current players conduct the search for their future linemates, often going to a high school or club game looking for teammates.
“I don’t have the resources to go out and recruit players,” Sabbatini said. “I just don’t have the time to drive to Western Pennsylvania to catch a game and watch prospective players. The players are vital in the recruiting process because they are able to go out and visit friends at a college and catch a game in the process.”
The Owls play their home games at the Polonia Bank Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia. Due to transportation issues, the team usually plays in front of very sparse crowds.
“I really wish that the university would have some type of bus that would take the students to the game for free, or maybe a dollar,” Sabbatini said. “But the university does so much for us that I can’t complain.”
This past weekend, the Owls endured a tough set of losses to Maryland-Baltimore County and Wagner. With their game against UMBC tied at three apiece midway through the third period, UMBC took the lead on a disputed call, eventually winning, 4-3.
“The game was not lost because of the referee,” Sabbatini said. “We lost that game because we didn’t come out early and set the tone. In the second and third period we outplayed UMBC, but in the first period we did not set the tone, which put us in a hole.”
The second loss of the weekend came at the hands of a Wagner team that finished last season ranked No. 4 in the nation. The game was tied at one after the first period, but the Owls gave up five goals in the second period and three in the third period en route to the 9-1 Wagner rout.
The Owls will look to rebound Saturday at Georgetown.
Kevin Maloney can be reached at Kevmaloney33@yahoo.com.