Hockey teams find mixed success in new divisions


Photo courtesy Calvin Sports Information

Calvin’s ACHA Division 3 team was promoted to Division 1 this past season, and the JV hockey program took over the primary team’s role in Division 3.

Considering the dramatic shift in competition, the D1 team adjusted considerably well to their new division. Their evenly split record and national ranking are impressive for their first year in the league, and their success is likely the result of the changes the program made in anticipation of their shift.

Ryan Bradley, a senior on the D1 squad, noticed that everything in the program intensified — the team now watches films a couple times a week and their conditioning regimen and ice time were increased. In addition, practices got longer and tougher.

That being said, the extra work has paid off and the division switch has been a positive change for the team. Prior to the switch, the team would go undefeated in almost every regular season, and was missing out on the competitive aspect that every collegiate sport should offer.

“In D1, every game is now a battle and we have to prove ourselves.” Bradley said being competitive is much more fun and rewarding.

Despite the relatively smooth transition into an entirely different division, the team still had to overcome some obstacles.

This year was a bit of an awkward time to make the shift. The team graduated several seniors last season and gained many new faces this year. While the team was learning how to compete in D1, they were simultaneously relearning how to play as a team.

This learning curve was evident in the beginning of the season, as the team lost five out of their first seven games. However, Calvin’s D1 squad managed to rally, and Bradley thinks that “this is a great start for our program in D1.”

The transition has not been quite so smooth for the new D3 team. The team did not win even one game during the regular season, and the program may be to blame.

The former JV team only officially practices one night a week, while off-ice workouts and commitments are minimal. The D3 team plays a full season schedule, but their conditioning and practice requirements still resemble those of a development team.

This really shows during games, as the team is incredibly competitive in the first period, but exhausted for the remaining two. The program seems to struggle to sustain two full-time teams, and the roster for the D3 squad appears to be short a couple defensive and offensive lines.

Because of this, the D3 team cannot afford to have any injuries or game disqualifications, but they’ve suffered from both.

Although the members of the D3 team have had significant obstacles, they have stepped up to the challenge of playing older, larger and more experienced teams — and have typically done so with much more sportsmanship. These setbacks can only better prepare them for the future.

The D3 team plays its first postseason game this Friday at 7:30pm versus Grand Valley, and will play in Holland at Griff’s Ice House. The D1 team has its first playoff game on Thursday, Feb. 22. Time and location are TBA.