Kneeling (L-R) Andy Gustafsen, Gerry Hyner, Al Reinshagen, Bob Farrell, Tom “Cat” Robbins.
Standing (L-R) Dick Bienvenue, Terry Hemlock, Tom “Slush” Chandley, Frank Sylvester, Brother Pat Lacy O.S.B, Dave Gray (Player Coach), Bob Lloyd, Brandy Wehe, James “JD” Dolney.
“In the Beginning”
The First Season of Saint Vincent College Ice Hockey
The origins of the Saint Vincent College Ice Hockey Club and Team are traced to some unknown date in a room on the second floor of Bonnaventure Hall. It was in the confined space of a dormitory setting that Bob Farrell and Gerry Hyner thought of and germinated a tradition that now spans more than four decades of intercollegiate ice hockey competition at the college.
Three Saint Vincent students, Bob Farrell, Gerry Hyner, and Dick Bienvenue started to play hockey on Sunday mornings at the Kirk S. Nevin Ice Arena with the Pittsburgh Knights, a semi-professional team formed by the Rizzo brothers of Pittsburgh amateur hockey fame. After several months of play, the three were frustrated by the behaviors and attitudes of the Knights toward them. Farrell and Hyner were thinking about a way to get even with some of the players on the semi-pro team and eventually came up with the idea of a college team to play the Knights. Bob pushed for the idea while Gerry wondered how it could happen. There were the problems of funding, acquiring ice time, finding a coach, getting equipment, finding uniforms, and of course would there even be enough students on campus to be able to form a squad. But Farrell had his mind made up. By the time the meeting was over, little did the college realize that it was going to have an intercollegiate ice hockey team.
In the first few weeks of the spring semester of 1970, sometime in late January, preparations were being made. Flyers were posted on campus to attract the attention of any interested students. Dick Bienvenue , having played on Sunday mornings with Bob and Gerry and also being an ice guard at Kirk S. Nevin immediately joined the effort. Dick was successful in acquiring donations from local Greensburg merchants and enlisted Dave Gray, a member of the faculty at Seton Hill College to be the first coach. During college, Dave was the captain of the St. Lawrence University Ice Hockey Team and immediately added credibility to the team. Then came the moral and spiritual support of Brother Patrick Lacy O.S.B. When the publicity campaign had closed, Farrel, Hyner and Bienvenue had a list of 15 names of both students and Greensburg/Latrobe natives who were to form the core of the first team.
In the February 6’th edition of the 1970 “Review” the team made its first official appearance in an article titled “Hockey Lives”, by Gerry Hyner.
“The fast moving, hard checking game of Ice Hockey has finally made its appearance on the Saint Vincent Campus. The Greensburg Ice Arena has been the site of a month’s worth of practice—coached by Mr. David Gray, Psychology Professor at Seton Hill. Coach Gray is an alumnus of St. Lawrence University, where he was the captain of the Vikings’ squad. Preliminary lines have been formed with Joe Repucci holding down the center position, and with Terry Hemlock and Frank Sylvester at the wings. On defense, Gerry Hyner and Dick Bienvenue with Bob Farrell and Tom Robbins will assist goalie John Savage, in support of the offensive lines. Forwards Owen Grumbling, Keith Mielke and Brandy Wehe will aid in scoring with the rest of the squad.
Help and support, of course, are needed from the student body. With their backing Saint Vincent could have a tough and ready hockey team.”
Money in hand along with a coach and players, the team was ready to go to the next level. Dick Bienvenue had learned of several other colleges who either had or were in the process of forming teams. Dick was able to arrange three matches for the Saint Vincent Icers before the end of the spring term…Carnegie Mellon University, Saint Francis College of Loretto, and Duquesne University.
Unfortunately, the students still looked more like a group of pick up players than an organized college team. Most wore sweats and those who had uniforms displayed colors from all sorts of different teams. Bob Farrell discovered a sale on uniforms at a Pittsburgh sporting goods store and used the tuition money sent to him from his parents to buy the first set of uniforms. The players who joined Bob on the trip could not decide which color of uniform to purchase. Since it was Bob’s money (or at least his parent’s), he made the final choice. Hailing from Connecticut and a follower of the Boston Bruins, Bob felt the Boston Bruin Black and Gold scheme made the most sense; and so the first uniforms were Bruin replicas.
With the original money raised by Bienvenue fast being spent on ice time, and with Farrell needing $300 in tuition, the team drew up a constitution and approached Student Government for an allocation. With funding already being allocated to the Intercollegiate Football Club, the Ice Hockey Club argued precedent and was successful in gaining funding for the student body sponsored sport. This first donation enabled Farrell to pay the College Business Office the back tuition money as well as permitting the team to finalize game schedules and acquire more practice ice at Kirk Nevin Arena. The students did schedule a scrimmage with the Knights in which both squads were split to avoid any altercations. Soon the first real game was drawing near.
There is no recorded date of the first game, but it did take place against a second year Carnegie Mellon team. Though not possessing the overall talent of the Tartans, the Polar Bearcats did hold their own. Bright spots included the play of Terry Hemlock, Ed Touhey, Cat Robbins, Frank Sylvester, Gerry Hyner, Tom Chandley, Jim Dolney, Bob Farrell, and Vince Kadlubek. Al Reinshagen, a backup goaltender for the Pittsburgh Knights provided extra help in goal. Terry Hemlock was credited for the first score in Saint Vincent Hockey history. Unfortunately, team captain Joe Repucci was injured in the contest and was lost for the rest of the season. The final score, CMU. 5 St. Vincent 2.
The next encounter pitted Saint Francis of Loretto against SVC. The members of each team matched up well except for the legendary Joe Gentile. The Captain of the Frankie team, one of the first black hockey players in Western Pennsylvania, scored four of the five St. Francis goals while the St. Vincent could only put in three tallies. Goaltending was split between John Savage and Al Reinshagen. With an 0-2 record, the team prepared for its final game against Duquesne University.
In the last game of the 1969-1970 season, the Dukes started quickly putting 3 goals behind Savage in the first period. Desperately wanting to pick up a victory, Coach Gray switched goalies to Al Reinshagen at the start of the second. He kicked aside enough shots for St. Vincent to trim the lead to 4-3. Then, playing inspired 3’rd period hockey, the Polar Bearcats outhustled the Dukes 4-2, to finish with the first victory for the team 7-6.
So ended the first season. A few students with dedication who were willing to take some risks created an actual team in less than one year. The seniors who graduated depleted the talent ranks for the next season. With Ted Savage, Joe Repucci, Dick Bienvenue, Owen Grumbling and Mike Gilliland gone, the question remained, what would be next?