Kneeling (L-R) Bob Lloyd, James “JD” Dolney, Andy “Lumpy” Labrasca, Ted Auffenrode, Lenny Hohenfeld, Gerry Hyner.
Standing (L-R) Coach Al Reinshagen, Ross Mauro, Bob Farrell, Mike Shapert, Mike Bernacki, Ed Touhey, Pete Repucci, Tom “Slush” Chandley, Kevin Finley, Tom Ballerstein, Terry Hemlock, John Coyne, Tom “Cat” Robbins, Brandy Wehe, Steve Schneider.
1970 – 1971
The First Season of True Intercollegiate Play
Friendships were renewed quickly during the fall semester of 1970 as the student body returned to their now familiar “home away from home”, Saint Vincent College. But things were in a state of flux for the hockey club. Dave Gray, the coach of the first team had left his faculty position at Seton Hill College. Frank Sylvester, one of the better players of the 1969-1970 season had transferred to another school. Dick Bienvenue, the first Team Director had graduated. The club had no money, and of course, finding more players, especially with several seniors having graduated, was an issue.
Bob Lloyd immediately sprung into action and took control of the off ice affairs of the team by assuming the role of Director of the club. Aided by an imaginative fund raising transfer student from Gannon University, Mike Kaleina, the two slowly built up the treasury for the team by a variety methods including the collection of dues, raffles, and by lobbying the student government association for an allocation. Al Reinshagen, who helped the team as a goalie in the previous season and Tom Mailey, an alumnus, were approached to coach the team. The loss of the seniors was compensated by a group of Freshman that included Mike Bernacki, Len Hohenfeld, Ross Mauro and the brother of Joe Repucci, the team’s first Captain, Pete Repucci. Lloyd had contacted other schools in the area who were fielding teams and a schedule of 9 intercollegiate contests were on slate for 1970-1971. Finally, Farrell and Hyner talked a fellow Junior, Andy Labrasca into play goal for the team, a move that solidified the college as a legitimate member of the Western Pennsylvania college athletics.
The team stepped onto the ice for its first practice on October 19, 1970. A few weeks later, in the November 9 edition of “The Review” the team published “Press Release No. 1”.
“Saint Vincent College has taken to the ice this year in the form of the Bearcat Ice Hockey Club. Following the path of Club Football started at Saint Vincent in 1968, the Ice Hockey Club is a student managed and operated club playing intercollegiate ice hockey. The Club, organized in January of 1970, finds its financial support coming from many of the local business establishments in the area as well as the Student Government of the College.
“Al” Reainshagen, goalie for the Pittsburgh Knights Hockey Team will lead up the team this year as head coach. Mr. Reinshagen, a resident of Greensburg, has played with the Knights for several years now and last year was very instrumental in orgainizing the Bearcat Team. Assisting with the coaching duties will be Tom Mailey, an alumnus of Saint Vincent College, also a player on the Pittsburgh Knights Team. Both coaches Reinshagen and Mailey are extremely optimistic about the team’s success in the 1970-1971 hockey season.
October 19’th marked the beginning of practice for the Bearcats and the Club has slated a three away and five game home season. Saint Vincent College will open against Gannon College of Erie, PA, on January 24 in Greensburg and will meet St. Bonaventure University of New York and February 7 at home. The Saint Vincent College team will also tackle Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, February 14’th away and Saint Francis College of Loretto, PA February 21at home. On march 12th the bearcats will engage St. Francis College in Johnstown, PA, and March 14 and 21, respectively, will play Gannon College and Carnegie Mellon University at home.
All home games will be played at the Kirk S. Nevin Ice Arena of Greensburg, PA, and face off will be at 4:00 P.M. The price of admission will be 75 cents for adults and 50 cents for children. The Bearcat Ice Hockey Club can only provide the community with a hard hitting, low cost game of ice hockey if the community will support the club.”
Club Director: Bob Lloyd
Class of ‘72
Assistant Club Director: Mike Kaleina
Class of ‘71
As the first semester rolled on, more students took an interest in the team. Soon, Ted Auffenrode was helping in the nets as Labrasca’s backup, letting Al Reinshagen concentrate full time on his coaching responsibilities. As fall finals ad come to a close, the team was prepared for a full slate of games for the spring semester.
The first match of 1970-1971 ended in a 6-6 tie with West Virginia University. Even though the team seemed to be competitive its early stages, some players did not take the game as seriously as others. The next contest against Gannon College made an immediate impact on the team. Except for a score by Ed Touhey, the team was embarrassed by a score of 15-1. This caused some marginal members to drop off the team and forced the more casual players to change the attitude from one of a group of people having an easy skate at a Sunday Hockey Club to something more along the lines of an actual intercollegiate sport. At the next “outing” a more serious approach netted a 12-2 victory over I.U.P. as Vince Kadlubek struck for 4 goals. The team then lost a hard fought 10-7 decision at the hands of Saint Bonaventure, a game in which Bob Farrell amassed 26 penalty minutes in a single period to extract a measure of revenge after being kicked in the back by a an opposing player. After the Joe Gentile/St. Francis game, a tough 5-4 setback, Saint Vincent traveled to Pittsburgh to face C.M.U.
It was publicized as the first collegiate game in the history of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. 2,000 stragglers from a just completed NHL game with the Pittsburgh Penguins had stayed to see the opening of the contest. Unfortunately for the SVC Center, he did not check to make sure his teammates were prepared for the initial drop of the puck. With one defenseman relacing his skate at the St. Vincent blue line and Andy Labrasca saying a prayer on one knee, without yet having secured his mask, gloves or goal stick, the officials dropped the puck. Eight seconds later, CMU had a 1-0 lead and eventually cruised to a 10-3 victory. The Polar Bearcats also had the misfortune of losing Gerry Hyner during the contest as he had to be removed from the game and taken to Mercy Hospital to obtain 5 stitches needed to close a cut from a CMU high stick. The final disappointment occurred within the last 15 seconds remaining in the game. With a stolen puck, Bob Farrell raced toward the CMU goal on a breakaway. Thinking the buzzer had sounded to end the game, he disgustedly slammed the puck into the corner, only to realize there were still 3 seconds left to play and what he really heard was the sound of an air horn from a CMU fan celebrating the Tartan victory.
To date the team had managed a 1-4-1 mark. It was not what they had expected at the start of the season and with powerful Gannon College next on the schedule, it looked as if another loss was immanent. But then something amazing happened. The team went into a defensive shell against Gannon and simply played for a break. Emphasizing keeping the play wide, denying the slot, and not permitting odd man breaks into the zone, Lumpy was able to significantly slow down the game with numerous glove saves. In spite of being badly outshot, SVC entered the third period with a 0-0 tie. Then on one of the few attacks that the Polar Bearcats mounted, Captain Terry Hemlock deked the goalie, went behind the net and wrapped the puck into the goal. Lumpy continued to frustrate the Gannon team and the defensive strategy worked. In a herculian effort, the team walked away with a 1-0 victory behind an unbelievable 60 save effort by Labrasca.
In the next game, SVC built on the momentum of the Gannon victory and beat IUP a second time 6-5. Finally, extracting a measure of revenge against CMU, the final game of the year was played on home ice in Greensburg; the result, SVC 7 CMU 2. The season ended with the team posting a respectable 4-4-1 mark.
Throughout the course of the season, many of the Polar Bearcats became fixtures in the Greensburg Hockey Community. Several took positions as ice guards, some volunteered to coach kids in the Greensburg Amateur Hockey Association, no pay, but plenty of extra ice. The players became such an integrated part of the arena, the late Greensburg Recreation Board Director, Mr. Kallagher, actually let them stay overnight at the rink with the group sometimes skating until 4 A.M. The spirit of the team and the dedication of its members had solidified into a real sense of dedication.
In the final edition of the “Review” during the 1970-1971 school year, Gerry Hyner summed up the season with the article, “Hockey Club Concludes Season”.
“As Club Hockey draws to a close this writer looks back to October when Saint Vincent College Hockey began its first regularly scheduled season. Having been recognized as a club and receiving an allocation from the student government, the team began regular practices on Monday and Wednesday nights. For once, the team could concentrate on hockey instead of trying to find the money to pay “out of their pockets” for each practice.
Coach Al Reinshagen, goalie for the Pittsburgh Knights, called the practice to order and a five month schedule began. Ed Touhey started to get out the kinks. Terry Hemlock led laps around the rink. Bob Farrell and Gerry Hyner practiced slap shots, and Andy Labrasca skated into the goal crease for his first attempt at stopping shots. As the practices wore on, the Freshman began to assert themselves. Missed checks began to decrease and once in a while someone scored. Touhey and hemlock began to take charge—but the team spirit wasn’t there.
Gannon Changes Team
Then came the trip to Gannon College. Saint Vincent was soundly beaten, but a new team began to emerge. Ringers (players from semi-pro teams or other colleges) became a common word in the locker room. Saint Vincent College was to encounterfive other teams besides Gannon, who had more players from other colleges than their own in the lineup. As it became enticing for Saint Vincent College to beat these loaded teams the spirit began to pick up, both in practice and in games. Unfortunately, Saint Vincent was often outclassed, but every game was hard fought and close. It is hoped that next year, when Saint Vincent College is in a league, only undergrads will play as in Club Football.
So, as this season comes to an end, this writer remembers the raffles to raise money for the equipment; the leadership of Touhey and Hemlock; some of Labrasca’s fantastic saves in the net; the goals by “Cat Robbins”, Dolney and Kadlubek; the aggressiveness of the defense—Farrell, Hyner, Chandley, and Ballerstein; fired up freshman, Len Hohenfeld; the Civic Arena game, stitches and the late night practices. All these have becomean integral part of the lives of twenty men. Unfortunately, as far as Saint Vincent goes, this is about where student support ends. Twenty-two Saint Vincent College-Seton Hill College students topped the attendance at one game this year. A hockey sponsored skating party was promised two free buses from Seton Hill—they never came. Without the support of the Greensburg community at the party, at the games, the Hockey Club would have folded after the first semester. So this is the summary of most of Hockey’s season this year. It is also an appeal for more student support of club sports on which club members depend.”