Calvin Hockey eyes expansion on 50th anniversary

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Photo courtesy Calvin Sports Information

Calvin Hockey hosted an alumni game over homecoming weekend celebrating 50 years.

Calvin Athletics is celebrating 50 years of having a hockey program at Calvin. For about half of those years, Head Coach Mike Petrusma has been at the helm of the program, which uniquely includes both a DI and DIII team. This milestone has helped to rejuvenate interest in the potential creation of a women’s hockey team and inspired the existing teams to strive to compete better on the national level.

Celebrating this milestone is an important recognition of the work of years of players and coaches. “There’s been a lot of work that brought us to where we are,” said junior Joseph Lugge. “It’s an acknowledgment to what all the players before us and the coaches have put into the program.” 

Calvin Hockey organized an alumni game over homecoming weekend. “It was really neat to see people from as far back as the first team in the ‘70s, to some of the most recent graduates,” said Petrusma, who has been coaching at Calvin for 27 years. 

The university’s Strategic Plan for Athletics is a priority investment over the next ten years, and discussions for that plan have included potential expansions of the hockey program. “I’ve heard that we want to advance and bring a women’s team to campus,” said Petrusma. 

However, this potential change raises questions. “The issue with that is the amount of ice time that we have available currently at the facility that we play out of,” Petrusma said. Since Calvin does not have an ice rink, Calvin Hockey rents the Eagles Ice Center for its practices, which means their hours on the ice are limited.

An obstacle for the hockey program has been hosting their games off campus, which results in less student engagement, according to Petrusma. “ In some cases, we are out of sight out of mind for the student body,” Petrusma said. 

“Getting the crowds back after COVID has been a little hard, but they’re coming slowly but surely. We’ve been having a better time getting more involved on campus,” said Lugge. 

Another obstacle is that Calvin Hockey is working through a long season. “Hockey is a grind; our season starts on the first day of school and ends in the middle of March,” said Petrusma. “We want our players to enjoy their hockey experience and their student and social experiences too.We work with our players to make sure they are not spending too much time in one area.” 

The main difference between the American Collegiate Hockey Association DI and DIII teams are the levels of competition. The ACHA DI team has a different schedule than the DIII team. Which means that they play different schools and compete in different conferences. The DI team competes in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League and the DIII team plays in the Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference. There are also differences in recruiting for both teams. “Most of the guys on our DI team have spent two or three years playing junior hockey, a lot of times they are coming in as 20 or 21year old freshmen,” said Petrusma, “our DIII team is more or less guys that have come straight out of high school.”

Both Calvin Hockey teams have started off their seasons strong. The ACHA DI team is currently 5-0 and the ACHA DIII team is 4-2. “We’ve got a pretty good program already; we’ve done quite well within our sphere. Our ACHA DI team is top 15 in the country, and our ACHA DIII team is probably a top 20 team in the country at this point,” said Petrusma.  

The program is focused on winning a national championship this season. “This year our goal is set on nationals and achieving that goal since we fell a little short last season,” said Lugge. “We want to start beating …  better teams every year, and beat Hope of course.” 

Calvin Hockey is looking forward to some big games this season. “For DI we have a Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame tournament coming up at the beginning of December that we’re hosting,” said Petrusma. “That tournament will involve us, Davenport, Grand Valley, and Aquinas. Hope only competes at the DIII level so that’s a big weekend series for our DIII guys. And of course league championships, qualifying for nationals, winning a national championship.” 

The DI team plays Oakland University this weekend at home on Oct. 29 at 7:30 pm.  The DIII team plays Trine Oct. 29 at 4:30 pm.