Roller hockey club building chemistry outside of the rink

The Owls closed the fall season with back-to-back wins, outscoring teams 17-5.

Freshman defenseman Mitchell Freeby (center) passes to senior forward Ralph Grillo during the Owls’ 11-2 win against the University of Rhode Island on Sunday at the Inline Skating Club of America in North Arlington, New Jersey. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Freshman forward Nick Grillo’s first goal for the roller hockey club came at the perfect time.

The Owls had lost their first game on Oct. 21 by six goals to Neumann University and allowed three straight goals in the second period later in the day against Rowan University.

Grillo scored in the third period to tie the Owls’ second game at four. His brother, senior forward and club president Ralph Grillo, scored 20 seconds earlier and assisted the game-tying goal.

The Grillos, separated by four years, had never played on a competitive team together before this year. Nick Grillo, the club’s treasurer, and Ralph Grillo play on the same line and are the leading scorers on Temple’s National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association Division I squad.

They try not to let sibling bickering get in the way of success.

“It’s more difficult for my brother,” Nick Grillo said. “He’s more of a goalscorer than playmaker, so he’s used to getting the puck and doing it by himself, and now we’re forced to work together. But it’s a lot of fun.”

The Grillo brothers are just one example of how the roller hockey club — made up of former ice hockey players, lifetime roller hockey players and others of varying experience — has developed a family-like atmosphere. The team goes bowling or gets dinner together at every tournament, Nick Grillo said.

Sophomore forward Connor Lordi began playing for the roller hockey club this season because he found the club ice hockey team to be too “intense” and “committed,” he said. Lordi wanted to focus on schoolwork, and the roller hockey club allowed him to continue to play hockey without being overwhelmed.

Lordi played three years of varsity ice hockey at Pennridge High School in Bucks County. Now, he rooms with his former teammates at Pennridge, sophomore forward Mike Weaver and senior forward Ben Weaver.

This season, Lordi has two goals, both of which came on Oct. 28 in games against Robert Morris University and Slippery Rock University.

“It’s a lot easier when you know the guys and how they play,” Lordi said. “You can make things happen a lot easier than just jumping in with a new team. It’s a lot easier to connect with those guys and play on the rink.”

Lordi said teams like Farmingdale State College, the top team in the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association’s Division I standings and defending NCRHA Division I champion, and Neumann University, which has won four straight ECRHA Division I titles, are successful because their players know each other well and have played together.

Temple is trying to replicate that model.

The team plays four-on-four hockey on a 185-by-80-foot surface, which is slightly smaller than a regulation ice hockey sheet. There are no offsides, icing or bodychecking. Compared to ice hockey, roller hockey is more about players’ skills instead of brute force, Lordi said.

The Owls practice on Wednesdays at the team’s home rink, the Sportsplex in Feasterville, Pennsylvania. They play in tournaments usually consisting of three to four games every other weekend. The team usually only travels as far as Long Island, New York for tournaments, Ralph Grillo said.

For local trips, Ralph Grillo said the players usually split up into cars their teammates have on campus. For longer trips, like if the Owls reach the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, in April, they will have to use fundraise for transportation.

Campus Recreation covers fees for entering tournaments and some equipment costs. Other expenses, including travel, are covered by club fees and fundraisers.

Temple (3-5-1) wants to get to the national tournament for the third season in a row. The team finished in the top 16 in Division I two seasons ago, but it “didn’t do too well” last season because there was an abundance of new players competing at a high level for the first time, Ralph Grillo said.

The Owls closed their Fall 2017 schedule with three games on Saturday and Sunday in North Arlington, New Jersey. They lost, 11-2, to Farmingdale on Saturday morning before beating the University of Massachusetts, 6-3, that night.

The Owls and Minutemen were tied at two in the third period before Ralph Grillo scored three times and Nick Grillo scored once. The brothers combined for six goals and five assists in Sunday’s 11-2 win against the University of Rhode Island.

Temple resumes play on Jan. 27 against UMass, Farmingdale and Robert Morris.

“Right now, our record doesn’t reflect it but we have a solid team this year,” Ralph Grillo said. “The first part of our schedule has been against better teams in the conference. So we had a slow start, but we’re definitely going to be good this year.”

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