Christian Zylstra-Staff Writer
An odd situation that occurred last February finally came to fruition for the Dordt Blades hockey team.
The squad entered the season with three suspended players and had to start their freshman goaltender in the season opener.
Despite the adversity, Dordt returned home with a 2-0 record following a sweep against Augustana College (Ill.).
The suspensions stemmed from an on-ice skirmish with South Dakota State University in the final game of last season.
Late in the game, tempers flared on both sides, resulting in suspensions for three Dordt players, two of whom were goalies. The bans carried over into this year and were effective for the Oct. 11 season opener.
“One of our players was checked from behind. This should’ve been an automatic disqualification,” said former head coach and current general manager Bill Elgersma.
Goalie Riley Braun, not taking the cheap shot lightly, went to defend his teammate. Braun came out of the net, skated to center ice and “got into it” with the opposing player.
A huge commotion ensued, which involved Dordt’s back-up goalkeeper as well. The brawl was due in part to a short-handed refereeing crew.
“There were only two refs because the third got hurt earlier, and they were not involved in breaking up the fight immediately,” said Elgersma.
Another player on the squad ended up being ejected as well, even though sources say he was not on the ice during the skirmish.
When the dust cleared, three Blades players were disqualified and suspended for one game. Dordt was required to forfeit the game because their two goalies were no longer available to play.
“This was a result from all the confusion and the refs did not know what to do,” said Elgersma.
Elgersma appealed the suspension for the uninvolved player but received no response from the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).
As a result of the suspensions, freshman Ross Van Gaalen was afforded an opportunity that not many first-year players receive. He was the Blades’ starting goaltender against in the season’s first game, a 4-1 Dordt victory.
Van Gaalen certainly looks ready for the bigger stage.
“It is pretty exciting to be able to play so early in the season,” said Van Gaalen. “I feel a little bit of pressure, which comes from being a freshman who has never played at the collegiate level before, but I’m not worrying about that too much. It’s just a game. It’ll be fun.”
Van Gaalen made 17 saves in the Blades’ win, the team’s first season-opening victory since the 2009-2010 season.
With Braun back in net the next day, Dordt won 7-2 to sweep Augustana and give the club some momentum as it begins conference play on Oct. 18.
Dordt will enter its second season as part of the Mid-America Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA), which includes Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Nebraska, University of Iowa and Missouri State University.
This conference is part of ACHA Division III. The ACHA is filled with essentially club teams that do not award scholarships. This division includes many schools with recognizable names, but, as Elgersma says, big-named schools should not be intimidating.
“Name or size of school doesn’t matter,” said Elgersma. “University of Tennessee [coach] once told me when he showed his guys our film, they were scared.”
In terms of recruiting, a good reputation like this will certainly be helpful for new head coach John Langeraap. He has the chance to build a new team with a school who is respected in corners around the nation.
Dordt plays the University of Iowa at Vernon Arena in the All Seasons Center on Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 19 at 4:15 p.m.