A group of male Maryville students will take the floor and head to Utah for the upcoming roller hockey nationals in April. The Maryville University Saints roller hockey team will enter the playoffs with a 13-2-2 record, capturing the lead after defeating Washington University 5-1 in the semi-finals and Illinois State 6-3 to win the Great Plains Collegiate Inline Hockey League (GPCIHL) Division II title.
The team, nicknamed the ‘Nard Dogs, will compete in the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) championships starting Apr. 11 at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. They lead the GPCIHL with 28 points. Sophomore Kyle Lovell, the team’s top scorer, was recently named a Division II First Team All-American by the NCRHA.
“I had no idea that I would have been named an All-American. I suppose you could say I was more surprised than anything,” said Lovell. “It is a great honor to be named All-American and I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
With their season now over, the ‘Nard Dogs are focusing on getting ready for Nationals.
“We are mainly focused on getting ready for the trip. We’re really stoked to be competing at Nationals, so we’re working on physical and mental preparation,” said sophomore team president Matt Pierson. “We will have practices closer to the departure, but the dates haven’t been decided.”
Pierson knows his team has spent countless days perfecting the game and has a positive outlook on the upcoming Nationals.
“Every athlete expects to win,” said Pierson. “The trip will be fun and a rewarding experience. But make no mistake; we’re there to take care of business. We haven’t invested this much time and money, not to bring home the title.”
“Honestly, I’m not too sure what to expect at nationals. I think we can finish with a high seed after the round robin tournament. Then after that it goes into the bracket system like college basketball,” added Lovell. “If we play our game and not sink to the level of the other competitors, I think we have a good chance at going far in the tournament.”
As the ‘Nard Dogs head to Utah in the coming weeks, Pierson offers words of wisdom to his teammates and recognizes their effort and teamwork.
“We just gotta keep playing smart hockey. I have faith in every one of these guys. I’ve played with them, I know their talents, and what they can do,” adds Pierson. “If we play our game, there’s no better team. And no matter the outcome, I’m honored every time I set foot on that rink with them.”
The Maryville roller hockey team started in 2010. The players include #91 Kyle Lovell, #2 Shaun O’Rourke, #96 Matt Harris, #48 Justin Riley, #12 Ryan McNorton, #9 Craig Wild, #88 Zac Hornung, #77 Clayton Denten, #27 Matt Pierson, #7 Chad Meyer; and goalies #41 James Kramer and #00 Eric Roach.
Virtually unknown to the majority of students until now, the ‘Nard Dogs are enjoying awareness from the announcement of their trip to Utah.
“This is all kind of happening so fast,” said Lovell. “At first no one knew about us and now we are like celebrities.”
The ‘Nard Dogs hope to have fun in Nationals but also expect to win. With an increase in on-campus interest, star players and an excellent season; the Roller Hockey Saints enter post-season play with faith and talent and the hopes of obtaining that National title.