The Roger Williams University men’s club ice hockey team came back from a weekend road trip tired and unsatisfied.
The team concluded their season on Saturday, Feb. 25, as they fell to Keene State College 4-1 in the second round of the American Conference Hockey Association Northeast Regionals, but know their season turned out better than they ever imagined it would.
The team made a nearly three-hour trip to Danbury, Connecticut last Friday night for a bout with Providence College, coming away with a 3-2 overtime victory that perhaps could have turned the Hawks’ special year into something a little more, but the loss to Keene State ultimately got them to realize their dream hadn’t come to fruition just yet.
However, while the season is over for the team, it has been a remarkable season to say the least, earning bragging rights for their American Conference title and a trip to regionals. What they accomplished this season is far more telling than the aftermath of a short-lived getaway to a state with many names (the Nutmeg State, Constitution State or Provisions State; take your pick).
The point remains, this team will not be forgotten too soon. Without further ado, let us take a look back at what these skaters did in the last five-plus months.
Since the Hawks’ club ice hockey program debuted in the 2009-10 year, the team has steadily grown in terms of their winning potential on the ice. A 6-11 mark in their birth year showed the Hawks had miles to go if they wanted to do significant damage in a conference somewhere down the line. In the following year, the Hawks played three more games and won ‘em all, good for a 9-11 overall record. In 2011-12 the team had a breakthrough, winning more than double the games they had in the previous two seasons en route to an 18-3-1 record.
Between 2011 and now, the team began to establish a culture that infested itself into the players and coaches alike. Their growth from a small-time team to one of the big boys became a reality when the squad joined Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association in the 2014-15 season. The team has made increasing strides toward success ever since.
Under the leadership of seniors Ian Mitchell and Joseph Bina, the team was a menace on the ice. Then throw in a handful of underclassmen like Jeremy Lawton, Will Sauerbrunn, and Sean Stewart, among many others, and that is a recipe made for success.
Mitchell led the team in points on the season with 47, leading the team with 29 goals and 18 assists. Bina was second on the team with 41 points, adding 15 goals and 26 assists. The next closest was Lawton with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists). Sauerbrunn had 21 (10 goals, 11 assists) and junior Jonathan Panarelli rounded things out for the upperclassmen with 20 (five goals, 15 assists). Freshmen Alex Abad and Cole Foster and senior veteran Jeffrey Demers also chipped in on the season, scoring double digit points with 16, 14, and 12, respectively. The trio combined for 19 goals and 23 assists.
The most important stat though was the W’s, as the Hawks racked up win after win on the season, earning a hard fought final mark of 24-6-1-1.
The ability of this elite bunch of skaters was maybe most evident when they had three five-game win streaks on separate occasions throughout the year. Roger Williams also dominated at home throughout the year, going 10-2 in a normally packed Driscoll Arena in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Throughout the season, the group went toe-to-toe with a number of quality teams, earning wins against non-conference opponents such as the University of Connecticut, Providence College, Eastern Connecticut State — twice — and Boston University.
The team captured the NECHA American Conference title when they defeated Eastern Connecticut State 5-2 on Feb. 19, easily making this season the most fun the Hawks have played thus far. But after the regionals loss the time is up for this group of guys and their five seniors.
A bright future could be ahead for the Hawks, and what the younger players do from here to fill the seniors’ shoes will determine their fate on the ice.