Twelve teams face off for club hockey title

Towson is host in Laurel of national tournament

Colleges

February 27, 2002|By Dan Williams | Dan Williams,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With a large fan base, full-time coaches and corporate sponsorships, college club hockey is much like a varsity sport minus the scholarships.

It's serious hockey. The premier club teams will be on display today through Sunday in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's national tournament at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. Towson will be the host of the tournament for the first time in the event's 13-year history.

"People in general associate club sports with beer drinking and whoever shows up," Towson coach Marshall Stevenson said. "That is not the case here."

Over the past five months, the 35 Division I club teams have battled to qualify for one of 12 spots in the event. The top four teams will advance to the semifinals Saturday, and the final will be held at 2 p.m Sunday.

The requirement of expensive, on-campus hockey facilities and gender-equality laws limit the number of major colleges with varsity hockey teams. The club circuit is fulfilling the need for spectator-friendly hockey at many schools left out of the varsity mix.

For instance, the Arizona club team, which would lack regional opponents if it moved to the varsity level, regularly draws crowds of more than 4,000 at home games.

And the Penn State team, which would have to add a women's sport and build a new state-of-the-art ice rink to become varsity, is sponsored by Nike and has a weekly television show.

No. 1 Penn State, the defending national champion, is favored in the ACHA tournament. But No. 2 Delaware and No. 4 Ohio have beaten the top seed in the past month and should challenge the injury-slowed Nittany Lions.

"We're kind of hobbling into the national tournament," said Penn State coach Joe Battista. "We're certainly not the dominant team we were last year."

No. 10 Towson will begin play tonight at 7:30 against third-seeded Minot State of North Dakota. Geographically removed, Minot State doesn't play many of the other tournament participants in the regular season, making it a wild card.

"There are some coaches who think [Minot State] is the No. 1 team coming into the tournament," Stevenson said.

Towson will face No. 6 Eastern Michigan at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. Towson will need to win at least one opening-round game to avoid elimination.

Schedule

Today -- Michigan-Dearborn vs. Ohio, 10 a.m.; Arizona vs. Delaware, 1 p.m.; Drexel vs. Penn State, 4 p.m.; Towson vs. Minot State, 7:30 p.m. Tomorrow -- Michigan-Dearborn vs. Iowa State, 10 a.m.; Arizona vs. Illinois, 1 p.m.; Drexel vs. Kent State, 4 p.m.; Towson vs. Eastern Michigan, 7:30 p.m. Friday -- Iowa State vs. Ohio, 10 a.m.; Illinois vs. Delaware, 1 p.m.; Kent State vs. Penn State, 4 p.m.; Eastern Michigan vs. Minot State, 7:30 p.m. Saturday -- Seventh-place game, 10 a.m.; fifth-place game, 1 p.m.; semifinals, 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Sunday -- Consolation game, 11 a.m.; championship game, 2 p.m.

At a glance

What: American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I national tournament.

Where: Gardens Ice House, Laurel

When: Today-Sunday. Consolation game, 11 a.m. Sunday. Championship game, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Teams: Penn State, Delaware, Minot State, Ohio, Iowa State, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Kent State, Michigan-Dearborn, Towson, Arizona and Drexel.

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