The ice hockey club covets its ACHA Select Team goalie.
Senior goalie Will Neifeld of the ice hockey club was one of 21 players selected to the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II Select Team to compete in a series of games that took place in Europe during winter break from Dec. 27 to Jan. 5.
The team was composed of 13 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies from colleges and universities around the country. Players were selected by appointed coaches, who were Florida Gulf Coast University coach Bob Brinkworth, Grand Rapids University coach Mike Forbes and University of Maryland-Baltimore County coach Aaron Voegtli.
“It was defiantly an unique experience that I was happy to be a part of,” Neifeld said. “It was overall a good time.”
The Select Team participated in six games against professional teams from Austria, Germany, Slovenia, and Croatia and left Europe with a 6-0 overall record. Neifeld split playing time with Montclair State University graduate goalie Kevin Fox in the first game and started the remaining five.
“We had a really great showing over there,” Neifeld said. “We had a really good team.”
Since the ACHA has started, Select Teams to compete internationally, the league has been 18-0 overall.
“It is really saying something special,” Neifeld said about the statement the team has made for hockey in the U.S. “From a hockey standpoint, what more can you do than go 18-0 in three years? It’s the best you can do.”
Since transferring to Temple from CW Post Campus of Long Island University last year, Neifeld has been No. 1 on the list to be put between the pipes for the Owls. Last season, which was his first year at Temple, Neifeld earned League MVP, Goalie of the Year in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association and helped propel his team to its first appearance at nationals.
“[Neifeld] is a great goalie,” junior forward Sean Nealis said. “Every time he steps between the pipes, you know you’re getting his best out of him.”
It is no surprise that Neifeld’s recent résumé builders have given the team a confidence boost.
“He makes you want to go out there and put some pucks in the net just so that his work load isn’t as heavy,” Nealis said. “Even in practice he makes you want to score a goal because of how difficult he makes it to score on him.”
“It’s always a good thing and you always want to play on the team that has people in front of you that believe in you,” Neifeld added. “For me personally, a lot of it is mental. If you play on a team where your teammates and coaches don’t have confidence in you, you’re not going to become successful.”
While Neifeld’s teammates and coaches agree that he has been a huge reason as to why the Owls have won games, Neifeld credits wins to his teammates.
“I’m confident in the guys in front of me,” Neifeld said. “They make my job easier with the effort they put defensively in front of me, so it’s definitely not an individual thing.”
Not only does the team have confidence in Neifeld, but he is also seen as someone who can take lead on the ice and in the locker room.
“He’s one of our leaders and a winner at heart,” former Temple player and now assistant coach, Konstantin Sakherzon said. “You can feel it when he speaks in the locker room and I’m sure that kind of drive filters through to the guys.”
“He is a leader by nature,” Nealis added. “He notices everything, and he is extremely vocal out on the ice. If he sees something we don’t, he will let us know.”
Despite a rough start to the season for the Owls, Neifeld has tallied eight wins in 20 games, seven of those wins have come in the last 10 games.
“He’s been a workhorse this season playing the majority of games and keeping them close for us,” Sakherzon said.
“As a team, we have to find the consistency and momentum that will give up the chance to make it to nationals,” Neifeld added.
Neifeld and the Owls continue their quest to reach nationals this Saturday at St. Joseph’s and home on Sunday against Montclair State.
Samantha Grinnan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.