The Blue Hens started the year ranked 11th in the ACHA, and hopes were high for an ACHA tournament run, even though the team was in transition. There was only three players left from the National Championship team in 2011 and the team had a new coach in Rocky Romanella. In order for the team to have success this year, they had to depend on a strong senior class and a lot of younger players.
The season opened with a bang as UD hosted #2 Robert Morris Illinois, last year’s ACHA National Tournament runners-up. The Blue Hens dropped the contest 5-3 but gained confidence and would move on to win their next 4 in a row. Early on UD found a line combination in three young and upcoming players, John Redgate, Cole Zucker, and Max Freeman. The young line started the season with a bang and consistently led the team in points for the entire season.
As the season progressed, UD battled with consistency, as 3 weekend series in a row resulted in splits with Rutgers, Rhode Island, and Liberty respectively. Coming into Thanksgiving the Blue Hens were ranked #13 in the Nation. With wins versus top ten opponents, URI and Liberty, plus a weekend sweep versus Lebanon Valley before the break, UD was confident when they faced #5 Stony Brook in late November.
The Stony Brook series ended in a sweep of the Blue Hens, but they rebounded nicely with a sweep of their own over unranked Drexel before the Christmas break. It was obvious that UD was a young team, in that they were learning how to win games and put teams away. They got stellar play out of their underclassmen, sophomore goaltender Dylan Troiano, sophomore forward Vincent Zingarelli, Freshman Forward Shane Mullin, and the line of Redgate, Zucker, and Freeman.
The winter session hit and it was a critical stretch for UD. If they wanted to participate in the National Tournament, then they would need to put a couple of winning streaks together. Unfortunately, and early split with West Virginia and a second sweep at the hands of Stony Brook, UD found itself in a bit of a hole. A shootout victory of LVC would be followed by a 5 game losing streak. The stretch through January was tough on the young Blue Hens, but they would turn it around with a big win over rival URI on Alumni night.
That win propelled UD to finish the season winning 3 of its last 4 and none in regulation. Unfortunately, it was not enough to get them into the ACHA National Tournament as they finished #18 in the rankings and were bumped out due to the Auto-Bids. UD entered the ESCHL tournament as the #3 seed and were looking to make a statement going into next season. That is exactly what they did as fans saw the best play from the Blue Hens all season.
Led by sophomores, John Redgate and Dylan Troiano, and Seniors Ryan Pate, Matt Gumina, and Marcello DeAngelis, the Blue Hens beat Rutgers in the first round. They then beat URI 2-1 in the Semi-Finals and found themselves against Stony Brook for the Championship. A late third period comeback by UD would force overtime but with 4:53 left in the first overtime, the 2015-2016 season came to a close.
In the end, a couple of losses to unranked opponents proved to be the Achilles heel for the Blue Hens and in their bid to return to the National Championship. On the bright side however, the team showed tremendous improvement and a resiliency that leaves us looking towards a very bright future. Stayed tuned to www.udelhockey.com throughout the off-season for updates and news stories.
By: Tyler Fitzpatrick