Kneeling (L-R) Larry Sylvseter, Roland DeFelice, John Lichter, John McQuillan, Coach Claude Godon, Terry Antonacci, Ned Nakles, Bernie Reese, Steve Moff.
Standing (L-R) Jim Bradley, Brian Fisher, Mark Higgins, Jay Murray, Jor Burick, Bob McNamara, Jack Hutchinson, Ed Ricketts, Rick Dell, Paul Patricoski, Mike Ziemianski, Gerry Monzilla, Jim Posney, Rich Wagner, Hugh McKeegan, Bob Matthews.
“Going for the Gold”
1976 – 1977
“A Championship Season”
As practice started for the 1976-1977 season, it remained to be seen how the Polar Bearcat Hockey Team would fare with the graduation of many veteran players the previous year. There was still a solid core. The strong freshman class of 1975-1976 had a full year of play under their blades. Roland DeFelice and John McQuillan had become recognized stars. Bob McNamara and Don Rothrauff, neither having played the previous year rejoined the team and added toughness and depth. Mark Higgins had completely recovered from his broken pelvis. Two outstanding freshman joined the team, Rich Wagner from St. Edward’s in Cleveland and John Lichter from Greensburg. Finally, Dave Vance, working as an Assistant Golf Coach, returned for still another season.
Paul Patricoski and Joe Burick, Co-Directors went looking for a coach to pull the group together. They uncovered a French Canadian living in Greensburg, Claude Godon. Claude brought tremendous presence to the team with a hockey pedigree that included playing defense in Juniors with NHL player J.C. Tremblay. Finally, the league solidified for the new season. The teams that left the WPCHA to play either an independent schedule or within the Penn State league returned to form two Divisions. Duquesne, IUP, Slippery Rock, CMU, Penn State McKeesport and newcomer Cleveland Satate University formed the “A” division. St. Vincent, St. Francis, CCAC Boyce, WCCC, and West Virginia University formed the “B” Division.
Other than two setbacks in exhibition matches against IUP and Penn State McKeesport, both games in which valuable experience was gained by equalizing ice time with all lines and goaltenders, St. Vincent destroyed the “B” group teams. Only once did a flat SVC squad come close to losing during an inspired battle against the WCCC Lumberjacks, bolstered by an outstanding goaltending effort by former Westmoreland Hockey Association star goalie Wayne Sambucco. When CCAC Boyce came to Kirk Nevin late in the season with more than half of the team’s roster filled with players from Pitt, it was clear that this SVC team was ready for the playoffs as it cruised to a 9-3 victory.
Just when it seemed as if everything was going to fall into place, disaster struck the Kirk S. Nevin arena. A faulty compressor, having been repaired several times during the course of the season completely failed. The final 5 games of the 1976-1977 campaign, all against the “A” bracket teams were cancelled and the lack of available ice time prohibited scheduling to continue. The league made the decision to eliminate the playoffs and awarded two trophies, including crowning St. Vincent as WPCHA “B” Division Champs with an overall 10-2-0 mark.
Not only did the team have success on the ice, Patricoski and Burick solicited the college to run the Pizza Concession at the “Coffee House” in Alcuin Hall that included a percentage of the vending machine profits. Hockey players selling pizzas became a staple of the St. Vincent College scene. With their leadership, the team was placed in an extremely favorable financial position as a Student Sponsored Activity Club.
As with every year, the team said farewell to key contributors including John Lichter who transferred to WVU, Paul Patricoski, Joe Burick and Bob McNamara. Dave Vance and Roland DeFelice would each return for ½ of the next season to finish up in December. Mike Ziemianski was voted to take over as Director and as always, the team waited for the next group of incoming freshman.