ECU Has A Hockey Team?
by Josh Spence

That's the response I get more often than not when talking about East Carolina's hottest new team.  In just its second year, the ECU hockey team is turning heads, making a name for itself and gaining respect on more than just a local level. 

If you haven't yet been out to see the ECU hockey team, you're missing out on the best sports team ECU currently has to offer.  The hockey team is non-scholarship, (in fact the team members pay to play) division III, and plays out of the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) which is comparable to the NCAA. 

The Pirates accumulated a 9-1 record through the first half of the season, with their only loss coming in non-conference play, 5-4 to 15th ranked Loyola. 

In the latest division three national rankings ECU was ranked 35th, out of 116 teams. 

The Pirates inaugural season was nothing to sneeze at either.  ECU went an impressive 11-4 in its first year, earning a birth in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference playoffs, and they took full advantage.  The Pirates went 2-1 in the tournament, including a win over Southwest Division champion Clemson that sent the Pirates to the championship game.  It was in that game where the Pirates would suffer their only loss of the tournament, 6-4 to BRHC champion Richmond.

The Pirates went into the break this season (teams take about a month off at the midway point from early December to January) with an impressive 9-1 record, and looked to start the second half with the same intensity. 

The Pirates second half began at "The Canes Cup," a non-conference tournament featuring teams from the region.  The Pirates 1st ever appearance didn't start the way they had hoped as ECU dropped its first two games 5-2 to Duke, and 6-3 to NC State.  Pirates coach Wayne Cox said he wasn't worried as much about the losses, as he was about the team's loss in momentum and confidence heading into the second half of the year.  After all both Duke and NC State are division II opponents.  Cox's worrying ended however when ECU won its final game in the tournament 4-3 over tournament champion Virginia Tech.

For ECU Head Coach Wayne Cox, the goal is simple.  "I want to win the conference," Coach Cox said.  It may be a simple goal, but the possibilities go much farther.  The ACHA is broken into four regions with four teams from each region advancing to the nationals.  The Pirates are grouped in the South region, and currently sit ninth in the South standings.  "Once you're there, who knows what could happen," said Coach Cox. 

Getting into that top four grouping is possible, but it won't be easy.  Winning the conference would certainly help, but the best opportunity to make some noise might be when the Pirates travel to face 2nd ranked Kennesaw State (ACHA-South) on January 26th.  The Pirates also play in the South Region tournament in early February. 

Your chance to see, and hear the team will be much sooner than that.  Join me and assistant coach Todd Carter for live coverage as ECU plays host to conference rival Appalachian State this Friday January 19th at 9:30pm, and Saturday the 20th at 3pm inside Bladez on Ice in Greenville.  Both games will be broadcast live on the only source for live ECU Hockey, Pirate Radio 1250 and 930 AM.

Josh Spence