Norwich club hockey team is now undefeated two years running

With an overall record of 41-7-1 the last three years, the Norwich men’s club ice hockey team has gone undefeated in its conference for the second year in a row. The club program, for the last three straight years, has won both the regular season and conference championships.

Finishing this season with a record of 18-0-0, there is no question that Norwich’s club hockey team has built a legitimate name for the program since the team was first put together in 2009.

The team’s secret to success lies within the strong bond between the players, according to head coach Bruce Baroffio Jr. With only three civilian students on the team, the tight bond that is built between all the players in the Corps of Cadets has shown to carry over on the ice.

Baroffio has been the head coach for the last three seasons. Barrofio was the assistant coach for the two years prior to being named the head coach. He credits bringing new structure to the program for the success. “Since implementing a systems approach for the team style of play, we have seen drastic improvements to the team’s success,” said Baroffio.

“Coach Baroffio has a laid-back mentality but knows when to get serious, and it creates a hard-working environment,” said the team captain, Jon Davidson, a junior athletic training major from Kissimmee, Fla.

When first arriving as the assistant coach, Baroffio recognized that the team was not seeing its full potential. With fights just about every game, averaging 30 to 40 minutes of penalties was normal. But given the chance as head coach, Baroffio seized the moment to bring the club to nothing less than championships and undefeated seasons.

The team currently competes in the Colonial North Conference of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA). The NECHA is an affiliate of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), which is men’s Division II.

“We have the opportunity to move up to the American Conference next season for better competition,” said Baroffio. “The team’s budget is really our biggest rival and drawback to making a decision like this.”

Some of the teams in the American Conference include Harvard, Umass Lowell, MIT and Westfield State, making travel costs a big impediment in making the decision on moving up.

The players each pay $450 to play for the season, which turns out to be a great deal for the students considering they played 18 games and practice three nights a week. Although receiving $7,500 from the student activities club sports, the team fundraises most of the money themselves.

“We have done some work in the community like moving furniture and giving our time in hope for donations,” said Baroffio. “Currently, we are in the process of raffling off a custom Adirondack-style chair made from the teams broken hockey sticks.”

A key factor to the team’s success is due to the strong club fan base and school support at homes games, according to Baroffio. When on the road, it is no surprise to see no fans in the stands, with the exception of some parents.

The Kreitzberg Arena is no stranger to pulling in great crowds for all the Norwich hockey teams. For the club team, reaching 300 to 400 people attending important games like West Point, gives them a special atmosphere that most club programs don’t experience.

“The atmosphere at home games are always quite special for the team, there is nothing quite like seeing the fans go crazy after we score in the Kreitzberg Arena,” said Davidson. “The Norwich club team is a great program, and we hope to keep a winning tradition alive for future seasons.”

Although winning is the best tradition a team could ask for, after each game, the team hands out what they call the “Golden Shovel” award. The small shovel is given to the most effective and hardest-working player after each game according to Davidson.

The Golden Shovel is passed on from player to player, allowing the players to decide and show acknowledgement for one of their teammates’ efforts on the ice. “I pick the first person in the beginning of the season, but then I allow the guys to hand it out for the remainder of the season as I think it’s a great team-building activity,” said Baroffio.

The team has tryouts at the beginning of each season to give all students who are interested in club hockey a chance to play. For the last few seasons, there has been a reported 45 to 55 players, male and female, who come to try out, according to Baroffio.

Under Coach Baroffio’s wing, the team usually consists of 15 forwards, 8 defenseman, and 3 goalies. With only so many playing spots, it makes the program that much more competitive with players to choose from.

“I credit much of our success to the team ability to operate as a team on and off the ice. It’s a tight group that has a lot of pride in the school,” said Baroffio. “The championships, the support from the fans, and the relationships built through this program are the memories the players and myself will always remember.”

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