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Rutgers Ice Hockey History

History Of Rutgers Ice Hockey

From a scrimmage against a “picked team of Princeton men” on Weston’s Mill Pond, Rutgers Ice Hockey was born. The year was 1892 and in that game a long history of tradition had started. It was a pick-up game that brought the likes of the University president and Mr. James Neilson out to witness the contest. It was to be a “polo” match, with skates, because the University did not have a hockey team at the time. Rutgers won the match-up 4 goals to 2 and a return game was planned, but the ice thawed too quickly that season. The first-ever game roster was as follows: Rusher: Elting. Half-back: Field. Half-back: R. Conover. Drive: Miller. Cover-point: J. Hogan. Goal: Wycoff (The Daily Targum, February 10, 1892).

After the famous Princeton Scrimmage, the team slowly formed a solid nucleus. More information can and is being found in researching The Daily Targum archives. In the winter of 1897 Rutgers faced off against Lawrenceville Academy in a 7-0 loss.  Thanks to Rutgers alum Steven Greene '79 for this and a lot of the dated information found in this historical culmination.

The one problem facing Rutgers Ice Hockey, from 1892 through the present day, is the facility to house a rink. This has been an upward battle, but in the 1921 season, the club was able to secure Neilson Field, present-day Rutgers College Gymnasium, and built an outdoor rink to be used solely by the team (The New York Times, December 12, 1920). The 30-man roster that season was able to use the facility, weather-permitting. Off-ice workouts (“pass-work” and “shooting”) that season were completed in the upper gym, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (The Daily Targum, January 11, 1921). To this day, no one knows what happened with that constructed rink. The first-named coach / manager of the club was listed during this season. His name was Manager Sherman.

1920 RU Hockey Founding Documents - Roll Call

1920 RU Hockey Founding Documents - Constitution Pt. 1

1920 RU Hockey Founding Documents - Constitution Pt. 2

The 1925 season brought forth four games and Rutgers finished 2-1-1. Rutgers had beaten Drew University (7-0) and Rahway Hockey Club (4-0). They had tied St. John’s of Brooklyn @NY Coliseum (3-3). Finally, Morristown beat Rutgers 2-1, in their only loss that season.

In the winter of 1927-28, a Rutgers football line coach, David T. Bender '25, assumed the head coaching position. Although he was not himself a skater, he brought together the group of skaters and the club went by the nickname “The Raritan Redmen". Most, if not all games, were played on Weston’s Mill Pond, a tributary of the Raritan Canal.

The 1930 season began with the club’s first meeting at the Zeta Psi House, in which Dave Bender, manager and assistant coach from the season prior, would eventually name a new head coach. Also, at this meeting, the flooding of the tennis courts on College field for practice was discussed. In the next decade, Rutgers Ice Hockey was never able to use the courts, due to maintenance and labor issues. In a second meeting at the Alumni house, twelve hockey enthusiasts came together to discuss the new location Rutgers would play home games. The choice was between Princeton and Haverford. Included in the meeting were the following: Professor David Fales, Jr., Phillip M. Brett, Jr. ’32, Schuyler C. Terrill ’31, and Coach Bender. After the meeting, Rutgers sought to continue playing on the Raritan at Weston’s Mill. With the uncertainty of the ice conditions, Plainfield Country Club has volunteered its facilities. The Targum voices its opinion toward the University here, in the way it explains that getting a facility at the Banks “is not an insurmountable obstacle”. It goes on to explain that it is “the winter sport” on campus (of relevance to student involvement and support) and that nothing compares. Finally, on the demise of the University on this fact, “Rutgers, unfortunately, has not kept pace with other universities in the east in this field” (The Daily Targum, November, 15 1930).

As the 1930 season pressed on, the Redmen (also known as the “Scarlet Pucksters”) recorded some more victories, including over Drew University (6-0) and the Rahway Hockey Club (4-3). The roster started to gain some key additions during this time. Bill Stearns, a standout from LaSalle High School was a key frosh pickup. Some veterans included: Johnny Kirkwood, Phil Brett, Jack Liddy, Skeets Terrill, Jim Dunn, Bill Sherwood, Bus Janin, Dick Gee, and Len Snedeker (The Daily Targum, January 13, 1931; February 7, 1931; February 10, 1931).

The 1931-32 season schedule was as follows:
February 21, 1932 vs. Villanova @Plainfield Country Club.
February 25th vs. Blair @Blairstown.
February 28th vs. St. John’s College @NY Coliseum.
March 7th vs. Villanova @Atlantic City Auditorium.

Still not having a “true” home, Rutgers Hockey was in severe trouble. Based on weather, the next couple of seasons were a hard test for the club.

In 1937, with warm weather, the club had one meeting, organized by Tom Bandler and Howard Baldwin, and an overwhelming response to vitalize the program is shown. Not only are the underclassman excited to restore the sport, more talented players find their way to the banks. Andy Kroes, played on the all-star team of NYC, Howard Baldwin starred with Columbia high school, and Ralph Mendel played with the frosh squad at MIT. In addition, Jim Cortright, Gene Siegal, “Fuzzy” Darby, Ray Schrieber, Will Dorn, Ken Ashby, John Howe, Carl Schmidt, Tom Bandler, and Martin Smirnow rounded out the prospects (The Daily Targum, December 8, 1937).

In 1940, Coach “Doc” Baldwin, former player, took the helm. A season highlight was the loss to Princeton JV 18-0. What led to their demise was that Baker Rink had boards, something that the Raritan Canal could not provide. The team was very inexperienced with rebounds and bounces off the wall. In addition, the Princeton squad had over 4 months of practice behind them with these conditions (The Daily Targum, February 10, 1940).

In 1951, Lou Schropp organized the club again, listing a posting in The Targum for any interested players to contact him. Paul Cleland, Brud Humphreys and Bob Stewart answered the call. They decided to schedule games right away, even though they had no rink to practice in. After losing their first three games, they set off to the Student Activities Board and were able to procure $400. Then, the team scheduled an 11 game slate and was able to practice at the Orange Ice Palace. Success started to rise as they trounced over Lafayette (5-0) and (8-1), but lost two games to Lawrenceville Prep (3-2) and (4-3). The forming of this club saw Stewart as president, Schropp as secretary-treasurer and Humphreys as manager. The 14-man roster that year was: Bill Glassier, Walt Ousterman, Bob Stewart, Bill Shields, Bill Mattison, Carl Lanning, Ted Teagram, Lou Schropp, John Hunn, Ed Erickson, John Bates, Carl Cathers, Mal McVeigh, and Brud Humphreys (The Daily Targum, February 20, 1951). Ralph L. Taylor '43, a staff member in the physical education department, also helped lead the way in the 50’s in trying to keep the team alive. The team rented ice at the Monto Carlo Ice Rink in Asbury Park, a converted outdoor swimming pool, for practices and three "home" games. Coach Taylor suggested that the University build a rink, however, the plans never materialized. The lack of local facilities led to the demise of the team in the late fifties.

In September 1960, RU freshmen, Edward Simonson '64 and Dexter Earle '64, and faculty advisor Jim Ross founded the Rutgers Ice Hockey Club. This is the first season that ice hockey is a distinguished and recognized “sport”. Under Head Coach Captain John Miller, a native Minnesotan who was teaching in the AFROTC, they finished their first year, playing at the Ice Palace in South Plainfield, with a 4-3-3 record. Rivalries developed with Lafayette, Villanova, Lehigh, Franklin & Marshall, and Delaware. During the sixties, against opponents from other club squads to Division I teams, they traveled as far away as Tennessee and the Air Force Academy. There was such a push to get the program to Varsity status in this particular year. Before the first home game of the season against Lafayette, President Mason Gross made appearances during pre-game ceremonies, in addition to Dean of Men Cornelius Boocock. Furthermore, Miss New Jersey also put in an appearance. Students would be charter bused in from Douglass to The Ledge then to the Ice Palace for seventy cents and pay for $1 tickets, in order to support the men’s program. The student push for ice hockey was at an all-time high. The roster from that season consisted of Dexter Earle (goalie-co founder of club), Ed Simonson (center), Jeff Gould (right wing), Dan Friebely (left wing), Tony Herndon (defense), and Mike Scafati (defense) (The Daily Targum, December 13, 1960; February 8, 1961).

The 1961 Rutgers Hockey Team (also known now as the “Scarlet Stickmen”) was on the verge of elevating to Varsity status. Under the watchful eye of the University, Rutgers scheduled games with the Black Knights of Army (one of the top teams in the country at that time), Providence, Ohio, UPenn, Harvard, Lafayette and Worcester, among others. The Army game was a milestone in Scarlet athletic history. According to most, that game would determine the Varsity fate of Rutgers Hockey. In a cry for help Dexter Earle asked the entire student body be present for all home contest in that “our varsity status could hinge on this night (referring to a home contest against either Harvard or Penn) and we are hopeful of the student body’s complete backing for this game”. The game schedule for the season totaled 17 matches (The Daily Targum, September 27, 1961).

To this day, no one knows why the Varsity push did not continue after 1961 and why a rink was not built.

In 1964, Geoffrey Gould '62, a former team captain, assumed the responsibility of head coach when Captain Miller was transferred. Moving to Princeton's Baker Rink and the Princeton Day School Rink, Rutgers played under Gould until the early seventies. During this period, Rutgers joined with Bucknell, Lehigh, Lafayette, and Villanova to form the Middle Atlantic Hockey League.

In 1967, Rutgers claimed 1st place at the University of Tennessee Vols Invitational, in addition to defeating them two other times, while losing once.

In 1968, Rutgers was the MAHL Champs with a 14-9 record. They finished in 2nd place at the University of Tennessee Vols Invitational.

Ice Hockey was prosperous and popular during the 70’s under Gould, Dave Zeemont, and Dave Dore. Three consecutive league championships began with the 1970-71 season, with the nation's number 1 and 2 leading hockey scorers of 1972-73 being Rutgers' Dennis Martin and John Majchrzak.

In the seventies a second team was formed which skated in the New Jersey Collegiate League against Upsala, Ramapo, Wagner, Farleigh Dickinson, CCM, and the Newark College of Engineering. This league became the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference in 1974. Rutgers did not join MCHC until the 1978-79 season, capturing the Division II title in its first year.

During the next few years, the team went through a succession of coaches who were RU hockey alumni. The list includes Art Eisendorfer, Pete Ahern, Tim Fox, and Lloyd Lisk. Lisk was followed by interim coach Mal Braich, and then Ray Mead Sr. The MCHC reorganized in 1987 into a three-division format with teams grouped competitively. Rutgers compiled a 22-9 record under Mead Sr., ending the season with a thirteen game winning streak and its first MCHC Conference title. Sweeping through the playoffs, RU defeated a CCM squad, which had won 28 consecutive league games 7-4 in the championship game.

In 1988-89, RU won its second consecutive title, finishing as co-champs with CCM.

In 1989-90, Ray Mead Jr. (RC '88) and Mal Braich shared Co-Head coaching roles as Rutgers won its third consecutive title by defeating Southern Connecticut seventeen minutes into overtime in the MCHC championship game.

1990-91 proved to be a rebuilding year, with many new players and a new co- head coach. Robert "Doc" Giaquinta joined Mal Braich at the helm and kept the team together during this transitional period.

The next season brought Michael DeAngelis (Cook '89), a former team captain, to the head coach position. A restructured league and a more experienced team brought steadily improving results, and once again Rutgers was in the MCHC playoffs, giving strong performances until losing in the semi-finals to Wagner.

In the 1992-93 season, the team continued its improvements, and again went to the playoffs, but lost in the MCHC championship game by one goal to Siena College.  With close finishes the previous two years, the 1993-94 RU squad was stronger than ever, posting a record of 25-9. The team won its first MCHC title under Coach DeAngelis by avenging the loss to Siena the previous year.

The 1994-95 season had similar results, with RU finishing the season as MCHC champions, taking a 20-6-2 record into the playoffs. The semi-final round ended with a thrilling RU victory when a goal was scored at 1:25 of the second overtime period, RU and Hofstra, with Rutgers taking the title with a 3-1 victory.

In 1995-96, Rutgers left the MCHC Conference and helped form a new and more competitive conference they called the Super East. They also began their second year in the American Collegiate Hockey Conference, the premier conference for the club hockey in the country. The Ice Knights finished second in the Super East when the posted a 20-7 record. This was good enough for a top four national ranking and a trip to their first ACHA National Championship Tournament in Tampa, Florida.

The 1996-97 campaign proved to be one of the Ice Knights' most successful ever. Achieving the #1 ranking in the Northeast Division of the ACHA with big wins over Marist, Siena, NCAA D-3 Scranton, and ACHA D-1 Westchester.  Rutgers went on to post a 21-5-2 regular season mark. Another trip to the ACHA National Tournament followed with mixed results. In Rutgers' first game against Stanford University, they were shut down by a superb goaltending performance and lost 1-0 despite out-shooting their opponents 58-14. In the second, and most critical game of the tournament, Rutgers lost 3-2 in a hard fought battle to a strong Penn State team, which was the eventual runner-up at the tournament. In their final game, RU defeated the host team, University of Missouri-St. Louis, handily to close out the season.

The 1997-98 season continued to RU hockey tradition of over-achievement. In what many thought would be a rebuilding year for the program. The Ice Knights jelled down the stretch and went on to win their first Super East Conference championship. The semi-final and final games of the playoffs were won in dramatic fashion as RU won by shootouts in both games. The team also successfully hosted the ACHA Division II National Tournament. Sixteen teams from throughout the nation competed at the Bridgewater Sports Arena, with Life University capturing their second consecutive Division II title. As the host team, Rutgers gained an automatic bid and competed well against national powerhouses, Michigan State and the University of Miami of Ohio.

The 1998-99 season found Rutgers Hockey again pushing the envelope as the newest member of the ACHA D-1 and Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association (ECHA). The Ice Knights had a few hurdles to face in the new division. Elements such as many away games and new teams gave the team something to strive for. By the end of the season, RU was able to add their first-ever ECHA All-Star (Andy Gojdycz), their first-ever ACHA All-American (Andy Gojdycz), and their first-ever ACHA Academic All-American (Bill Stepian) to their list of accomplishments.

The 1999-00 season brought forth a new freshman class and a well-rounded, experienced team. The Knights competed for the first time against the University of Arizona and once again were invited to face one of the most powerful hockey programs in the nation, Penn State. Again, the Ice Knights were proud to add another ECHA 1st Team All-Star (Andy Gojdycz) and two more ACHA Academic All-Americans (Bill Stepian, Chris Avella) to their list of accomplishments.

The 2000-01 season proved to be a test for the Ice Knights. With the loss of a few rookies and graduation seniors, the Knights had to work hard to maintain their high level of performance. Things might have gotten off to a slow start but by the end of the season they made the ECHA playoffs for the first time in the history of Rutgers Hockey and had three players receive ECHA All-Star Awards (Chris Avella, Jack Gregory, Andy Gojdycz).

The 2001-02 season brought forth a new beginning for the Ice Knights. With the worst start and season record in its history, RU brought in a new change of guard. Andy Gojdycz (Cook '01), a former 4-time team captain, received the Head Coach and General Manager position. In addition to Coach Gojdycz, Mark DiGiovanni, a former alumni and Chris Perruso, a former player, were elected to the coaching staff. Though dark in its situation, the future looks bright as RU leaps into its 75th Anniversary Season.

The 2002-2003 season for the Ice Knights was a hard test in a tough, experienced ECHA. With the likes of Drexel University, Towson University and other national powerhouses, Rutgers stayed competitive and gained new respect in the league. Though winless for a second season, Rutgers added 18 new members to the squad, in addition to an ECHA All-Star (Brian Williams), an ACHA All-American (Brian Williams), and 2 ACHA Academic All-Americans (Steve Varga, Ryan Hastings), all for the first time in two seasons.

The 2003-2004 season started with a bang, as the Ice Knights began the season at .500, receiving its first win in two years at the Leigh Invitational. Competing in the East-West Challenge for the first time in team history, Rutgers did not go down without a fight. Facing against new teams such as Michigan-Dearborn, Western Michigan, and Eastern Michigan, Rutgers beat Western Michigan 3-1 in the last two periods, out-scoring and out-hitting the Stallions after a horrible first period. Adding to the success of the season was the addition of 2 ACHA Academic All-Americans (Brett Parker & Ryan Hastings) and the first ACHA All-American goaltender from Rutgers (Kris Corso).

The 2004-2005 season saw new changes in the staff. In a surprising move, General Manager Andy Gojdycz handed over the coaching reigns to Mark DiGiovanni, and the coaching staff welcomed 3 new assistants. Jim Schwanda, alumnus Michael Stapleton and former ACHA All-American goaltender Kris Corso joined the Ice Knights on a full-time basis. The Ice Knights added two ACHA D-1 victories to their list of accomplishments (St. John Fisher & SUNY-Binghamton).

The 2005-2006 saw the Ice Knights go 1-26-1 in a tough season with many highlights. In the first All-Star Game held by the ECHA, Rutgers’ own Brett Boehm and Matt Voit accumulated 3 points and had a stellar showing. Rookies Evan Ely, Matt Lavit, Devon Jones, Rory Levinson, Lou Stomel, Jack Schram, Carl Pankok, David Sarch, Josh Esformes and others powered up the young team while upper-classmen Daniel Mazzucola, Brett Boehm, Joe Rotella, Lou Taranto and Brett Erdreich led the charge. The 06-07 season looks to be one of youth and aggression as Rutgers tries to climb out of the cellar.

The 2006-2007 season finally put the Ice Knights back on track. Finishing with a 7-20-2 record, it tallied its best season since 2000. In this historical season, Rutgers beat Towson University, for the first time in its long history, both at home and away venues. In addition, Dan Mazzucola and Ryan Walter both earned ACHA Academic All-American status and the Ice Knights had five players at the ECHA All-Star Game (Mike Costa, Lou Taranto, Josh Esformes, Rory Levinson, and Dan Mazzucola).

The 2007-2008 season was a record-setting year for Rutgers Hockey. The Ice Knights won the inaugural Northeast Collegiate Hockey League (NECHL) regular-season championship, had the best win/loss ratio in over ten seasons by compiling a 20-8-2 record, and had many players win league and national awards. In the freshman class, Andrew Shapiro (NECHL All-Tourney Team / NECHL All-Star Honorable Mention), Mike Pereplyotchik (NECHL 2nd Team All-Star), Jeff Katz (NECHL All-Star Honorable Mention), and Anton Rassadkin (NECHL 2nd Team All-Star) all had recognition. For the upperclassman, Josh Esformes (NECHL 1st Team All-Star), Frank Figarole (NECHL 2nd Team All-Star), Rory Levinson (NECHL All-Star Honorable Mention) and Evan Ely (NECHL All-Star Honorable Mention) all were acknowledged. Head Coach Andy Gojdycz was selected as the NECHL Coach of the Year and as a finalist for the overall ACHA D-1 Coach of the Year. Josh Esformes and Dan Mazzucola received ACHA Academic All-American status while Esformes was selected to play in the first-ever ACHA D-1 All-Star Game at Penn State University.