University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. State University of New York Geneseo. Norwich University. These are all examples of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III schools with measurably successful hockey programs — with 71 combined wins in the 2019 season.
Meanwhile, Chapman’s hockey team has not won a single game since 2017. During the 2018-2019 season, the team finished with a 0-10 record. The year before was even worse, with the Panthers losing 11 games.
However, despite two straight seasons of defeat, the team now carries a different roster and attitude this upcoming season.
“I can already tell it’s going to be a different year,” head coach Tradon Reid said. “Every new player I’ve talked to over the summer appears to be extremely dedicated to the program.”
Reid said he is excited to see what his strong incoming freshman class and motivated upperclassmen can do on the ice when the season begins on Sept. 10.
“Most of our recruits have been from (current) players on the team,” Reid said. “They’re finding players that really want to play.”
While the team is transitioning toward a more driven-attitude, consistent commitment to the program has been an issue in the past, as the schedule at the end of last season conflicted with most players’ winter breaks. Since games continued through interterm, Reid would send out a lineup of only eight skaters, which is uncommon given that hockey teams generally rotate 15 to 20 players throughout a game. This is one of the issues that the team is most intently focused on revising during the offseason.
“The players need to buy into the system that I give them,” Reid said. “I can control the on-ice product and as long as the players are dedicated and show up, we will be prepared for these games.”
This year, nine more players than last season are prepared to lace up their skates on Sept. 4 to begin practicing for the upcoming season. Now, the Panthers can rotate three lines in and out at any given time. One member of the team, sophomore business administration major Harrison Lowe, is optimistic that this expanded roster size will make the team more versatile.
“With two juniors, a senior and another sophomore that we’ve added to the roster, we should have 17 skaters which will keep us a lot more flexible throughout the season,” Lowe said.
Another issue that has affected the team’s performance over the past two seasons is support from the student body. Last year, games were normally held on Friday nights at 9:30 p.m. In efforts to draw more attention from other sports fans, the team’s games have been changed to Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. They have also relocated to a new venue, Anaheim Ice, from their old arena in Westminster.
“I’m really looking forward to this new location because it’s a National Hockey League-sized rink,” Lowe said.
With the coaches and players believing attendance will improve, the team feels more confident with its ability to refine on-ice performance. Over the past two seasons, the drop in attendance hindered the morale of the players in the rink, Reid said.
“When you’re playing in front of a crowd, that’s the way hockey is supposed to be played,” Reid said. “When I was playing at Chapman, that was the motivating factor for me — to look up in the stands and see friendly faces cheering us on. It makes you want to skate that extra mile.”
In attempt to bring this atmosphere back, the current team is actively promoting their brand to the student body.
“We’re going to be tabling at the Piazza the next couple days so we can get as many people out as possible,” Lowe said.
The Panthers’ last few seasons haven’t brought many wins. But with roster moves and efforts to draw a larger crowd, Reid is optimistic about what the future has to bring.
“You’ll see us stay in more games,” Reid said. “I firmly believe that we will get a few wins under our belt.”