Jeralyn Wessel – Staff Writer
The opening home game of the Dordt University hockey team on Sept. 30 rang in the new season with an intense, shoot-out Dordt victory. As the crowd erupted after the final puck landed in the net, the two opposing teams drew together for prayer.
The hockey team will continue to build their record (currently 6-0-0) over the coming weeks, and the next home game will be against Nebraska-Omaha on Friday, Oct. 28.
Dordt’s hockey team has competed for over fifty years and currently uses the All Seasons Center Ice Arena for home games. Unlike other Dordt sports teams like volleyball or soccer, hockey is considered a club sport – no students receive scholarships for playing. However, Dordt does provide funding for transportation and uniforms.
While the hockey team doesn’t compete in the NAIA/GPAC conference, they do participate in the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) division of the ACHA. Coach Tyler Morgan and the team hope to win their MACHA division in order to secure a spot in the national tournament in which Dordt has only competed three times.
The 2022-23 season brought a lot of new faces to the program. Out of the twenty players this year, twelve are freshmen and five are sophomores. With a large group graduating last year, Morgan needed to recruit a significant number of new players. Nearly all those he approached about joining the team had never heard of Dordt University before, and many were hesitant to give it a second thought. However, once convinced to visit campus, nearly all potential recruits committed.
“When I showed up to skate with the team, I felt wanted and loved as soon as I walked into that locker.” Noah Wilmes, a sophomore assistant captain, said. “The atmosphere was nothing I have ever experienced before.”
While a young team produces a lot of room for learning, it also produces a lot of excitement for new opportunities.
“I think it’s a very big opportunity when you have 12 incoming freshmen all coming from different parts of the Midwest to grow together in sports, as Christians, and as people,” freshman assistant captain Zach Espenson said. “I feel that this group will be very close and open with each other long after graduating from Dordt.”
In the Midwest, hockey can often be overlooked at the collegiate level, but Dordt has fostered a unique, supportive environment for their hockey team. On and off the ice, Morgan emphasizes Dordt’s spiritual values to his players in order to raise up a team that influences campus and the community in a positive way.
Morgan’s ultimate goal is for the team members to grow as people.
“In four years when they graduate, they are going to have all these memories from being hockey players, but they’re also going to be ready to be dads and husbands and professional employees in the workplace,” Morgan said.