The East Carolina University club hockey team has seen much improvement from last year. Since the beginning of its last season, the team has undergone some changes. A strong group of young freshmen and sophomores have helped bring the team to now hold second place in their conference.
The team is overwhelmingly made up of young talent with a combined 20 players being underclassmen. Thomas Keisler, Caleb Downs, Christopher Deperno, Ben Damm, Seth Bunch, Ricardo Kornegay, Alex Fisher, Cam Gross, Hudson Shaeffer, and Ben Kellman make up the freshmen class.
David Cavrak, Drew Chasanov, Shane Ross, Andrew Kiriloff, Mason McMahon, Graham Emmett, Thomas Bruening, Thomas Inacio, and Justin Hess make up the sophomore class.
“We only have three seniors this year, and 90% of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores,” head coach Aaron Coleman said. “We have a very young team, which is good because that means I get to work with this group of players for the next three to four years.”
Typically when a team brings in a lot of new players there can be some difficulties. New personalities may clash, some of the new guys may not fully buy into the system or understand how things work in the new playstyle, but that hasn’t been the case for the Pirates this year.
“Everybody has bought in, we got a lot of new players, we have about 10 new guys on the team so we are really young,” Kiriloff stated. “This is our coach’s third year with the team so he has been able to groom a lot of these guys. So we are all just buying into the system.”
These young players have come to play this season as several of them have been key contributors to the team’s success this season. Kiriloff, McMahon, Gross, Kellman, and Hess are five of the team’s top six scorers. Kiriloff and McMahon are tied for first on the team with 20 goals each, Gross is in second with 19, Hess is fifth with 13 and Kellman is directly behind him with 12.
With the young additions, the Pirates currently sit at an 8-3-1 record. That is eight wins, three losses, and an overtime loss. The overtime loss still gives the Pirates a point in the rankings. The pirates have been dominant at home and have a home record of 5-0-1.
“Last year we were about .500. We went like 8-8,” Kiriloff said. “Right now we are like 10-2-1 so it has definitely been a big step in the right direction.”
The team is considered a club so they have had to operate differently than how the football team or basketball team gets to. While those teams have their own courts or field that they can use whenever they want to and not have to share it with anyone else that is not the case for the hockey team. They have to buy ice time at a local rink that is fair use for the public.
“Funds wise we do well. We get a decent amount of funds from the school that lets us pay for ice time,” senior Captain Nick Digiovannantonio said. “We have had to use all of the allocated funds from the school so we are done with that. Now it is all on us. We pay with our dues...That will usually fund the rest of our season. Cam has started a go fund me which has got I think almost $2,500 right now and that will pay for hotels for the playoffs.”
Coach Coleman has been very proud of the team’s progress and has faith in his players that they will continue to progress and be able to compete with the best of teams.
“It is a really great feeling to know I am a part of this,” coach Coleman said, “It is rewarding in itself to know where we are and where we are heading to.”
Playoffs begin Feb. 14 and go through Feb. 15. From there the Pirates hope to qualify for Regionals and from there, Nationals.