Kneeling (L-R) Rick Ruddy, Lenny Hohenfeld, Gerry Hyner, Ted Auffenrode, Andy Labrasca, Steve Schneider, Tom “Slush” Chandley, Jim “JD” Dolney, Denny Brunetta.
Standing (L-R) Coach Al Reinshagen, Jim Temple, Chris Carlton, Bob Farrell, Brandy Wehe, Mike Bernacki, Ron Kroll, Al Maniet, Jeff Bentley, Dennis Kadlubek, Tom Ruane, Dave Vance, Jeff Fondl, Mike Payne, Coach Bill Vance, Mike Kaleina.
“The End of the Beginning”
1971 – 1972
League Play Begins
At the start of the 1971-1972 season, the Saint Vincent College Ice Hockey Club was more stable than ever before in the team’s history. In spite of the loss of two outstanding leaders, Terry Hemlock and Mike Kaleina, plus Seniors Tom “Cat” Robbins, Mike Shapert, and Kevin Finlay, the team had developed a strong presence at school and in the community. The players had a good rapport with rink management, the student government association was able to support the program financially, and more players showed up on campus to play.
Even though the vast majority of the original 1969-1970 icers were seniors, the association of St. Vincent and ice hockey was starting to have an effect on admissions. Eight new players, all first year students came out for the team. Four of them based their decision to come to Saint Vincent on the fact that SVC had an intercollegiate ice hockey team and a local high school senior, Dave Vance, who went on to attend the school as an undergraduate, also joined the club.
After several practices, the influx of new talent combined with the senior leadership of the previous seasons. Tom “Slush” Chandley was voted team Captain. Bob Farrell, Gerry Hyner, and Ed Touhey were selected as Assistant Captains. Al Reinshagen remained head coach, and was joined by William Vance whose son Dave was to have a significant impact on the team over the next 7 years.
To get extra ice time, many players participated in Sunday morning pick up games at the Kirk S. Nevin arena. It was during these informal scrimmages that Bill Vance started to express an interest in the team. Playing professional hockey in his youth, Bill brought a new dimension to practices and worked with Andy “Lumpy” Labrasca on perfecting his goaltending technique. Bill had an amazingly accurate wrist shot and would spend hours with Lumpy on situations and positioning. While Bill took care of Labrasca, Coach Reinshagen whipped the rest of the team into game shape.
Off ice, Bob Lloyd, Director of Hockey Operations, and Assistant Director, Denny DeStadio, scheduled games for the team’s inaugural season in the newly formed Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Hockey Association, WPIHA. The league had two divisions with 4 teams in each group. Pitt, CMU, Penn State West and Duquesne were placed in one division, while St. Francis, St. Vincent, Slippery Rock, and IUP comprised the other. Each team was to schedule two games against those schools in its own division, and one game with each school from the other section making a 10 game season. The top team from each was to play for the title.
The season was characterized by many close relatively low scoring games. St. Vincent became known as a tough defensive team with outstanding goaltending.
The opening game against Slippery Rock was a tough loss as the Rock pulled out a come from behind 5-3 victory over the Polar Bearcats. This game was followed by a hard fought 2-1 loss to Pitt, a game in which Labrasca shined as SVC was out shot 44 to 9. In the second period of that game a Pitt shot deflected off the shin pads of Gerry Hyner and eluded Labrasca for the first score of the game. Several minutes later, Lenny Hohenfeld knotted the score at 1-1, but before the end of the period a Pitt pass through the deep slot was inadvertently directed behind Labrasca by Chandley. The third period remained scoreless for both teams.
After rebounding in a 5 to 2 victory over Penn State McKeesport, the Polar Bearcats dropped another heartbreaker at the hands of Duquesne 3-1. The next home game against St. Francis had a different flavor. First it was actually broadcast on campus over radio station WSVC. Also, as a way to raise some publicity for the team, Dean of Students Fr. Earl Henry escorted the Dean of Seton Hill College to the game. The final score, St. Vincent 7 St. Francis 2. With another strong game by Labrasca, the team avenged an earlier loss to Slippery Rock by a 4-2 margin.
Unfortunately, the two game winning streak lost momentumand was followed by two more close setbacks. After another win at St. Francis, it looked like SVC would end the season with a tie at first place IUP, but the Indians scored with only 21 seconds left in the game. The final record for the year went in the record books at 4-6-0.
In spite of the solidification of the ice hockey club on campus, the 1971-1972 season marked a sad page in the history of the team as well. The original founding members of the team were seniors. Tom “Slush” Chandley, Bob Farrell, Gerry Hyner, Andy “Lumpy” Labrasca, Jim Dolney, Ted Auffenrode, Ed Touhey, Tom Ballerstein, and Bob Lloyd were to graduate in the spring. It was to their credit and effort that the team was now flourishing. They laid the foundations for further growth. Regardless, the future looked bright. The team’s top two scorers were only Sophomores, and a host of underclassmen were available to play. On the horizon however, the best was yet to come, the arrival of the freshman who were to become the class of 1976.