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Hockey Club Alumni Return for 2019 Reunion

IUP ice hockey club members from the ’80s and ’90s got together in March 2019 for their annual reunion and tournament. The following report is by former Penn sports reporter Dale Caprara ’82. 

As Father Time plodded his slow, steady path through March, members of the IUP hockey club from the ’70s and ’80s prepared themselves for their annual rite of spring that is the Apache Hockey Reunion. Some players skate year round in preparation for this event. Others skate twice a year—on game days!

When the reunion weekend finally arrives, tradition dictates they all gather at the Belmont Ice Arena in Kittanning for some camaraderie, sportsmanship, good food, and beer. This year was no exception.

The 2019 reunion took place on March 29 and 30. First on the agenda was the annual golf outing. Unlike last year when temperatures climbed into the mid-70s, the mercury struggled to hit 50. Only a few brave souls mustered the courage to dodge the raindrops at the Lenape Heights Resort.

After golf, the players hit the ice for the first of two games between the Vinyls (players from the ’70s and early ’80s) and the CDs (players from the mid- to late ’80s).

The CDs jumped to a quick 3-1 lead eight minutes into the first period on goals by Robert Clark ’88, Robert Carey ’89, and Chris Franceschi ’91. The Vinyls got an early tally from John O’Leary ’87, then tied the score before the end of the period on goals by Mike Heilman ’95 and Dan Custred ’83.

After Carey put the CDs ahead early in the second period, the Vinyls scored the next three goals to take a 6-4 lead. Bob Grimes ’87 scored in the sixth minute, and Heilman completed his hat trick, scoring two goals, the last one in the final minute of the period. Franceschi scored his second of the game for the CDs to narrow the lead to 6-5 after two periods.

The Vinyls posted four third-period goals, including two more from O’Leary, and received some stellar play from goaltender Jacob Lorigan to post a 10-6 victory. Ed Dalesandro ’78 and Paul Bucher ’81 also scored for the Vinyls. Ken Barkman ’89 scored for the CDs.

Game two began as a defensive affair, with only one goal scored in the first period. Bucher was the only goal scorer in a  period dominated by goaltenders John Strachan ’88 for the CDs and Ryan Helsel for the Vinyls.

The second period saw the Vinyls score three early goals in a two-minute span to take a 4-0 lead. Although the CDs were able to get within two goals later in the period, they were unable to get any closer, as the Vinyls swept the weekend with a 7-4 victory.

Heilman and O’Leary led the Vinyls with four goals each. Bucher and Custred had two goals apiece, and Jim Hickey ’81, Paul Niederkorn, Scott Delaney ’85, Dalesandro, and Grimes scored one goal each.

Carey scored three goals for the CDs, Franceschi and Barkman had two apiece, and Clark, Chris Brown ’89, and Ray Nauyokas each had single tallies.

After the Saturday game, many players gathered at the home of Brett Robinson and Leslie Wood Robinson ’91 for dinner, adult beverages, and college hockey on ESPN. Sunday morning brought a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and goodbyes for this year.

Next year’s gathering is already in the works. Those who could not attend this year are already looking forward to it. Such is the bond of the Apaches.

Special thanks, as always, to Brett and Leslie Robinson for use of their home, as well as to Gary Montebelle, director of the Belmont Complex, for arranging the ice time.

Until next year…