When the Rutgers women’s hockey team pulled off its stunning defeat of the University of Pennsylvania last winter to claim the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference (DVCHC) women’s championship, the improbable victory went largely unnoticed. There was no recap on ESPN, no billboards on the streets of New Brunswick congratulating the team, no ticker-tape parades down the canyons of College Avenue (well, there have never been any of those).

No, there was none of that. Instead, this band of 12 determined women broke into a delirious celebration on the ice among themselves, oblivious to the indifference of the outside world. The Lady Ice Knights had now won the Division II club hockey championship for the second straight year. Their 7–3 victory, at Centre Ice Rink in Harrington, Delaware, culminated long, if joyful, hours of practice and games, which take place late in the evening or very early in the morning in frigid rink conditions that would make a polar bear wince.

The Rutgers women’s club hockey team is one of 55 student-run club teams available through the Rutgers–New Brunswick recreation department, which also sponsors more than 50 intramural sports leagues, among other offerings. Unlike the vast majority of club sports, ice hockey, for both the men’s and women’s teams, is relatively expensive, requiring each participant to pony up $800 a season to cover the cost of uniforms, equipment, ice rental, and travel expenses. The price of entry has thus limited the size of the team to a dozen players or so, whereas most of their opponents have teams of 20 players. In a fast-moving game that requires rapid replacement of the five skaters on the ice with fresh players, Rutgers has been at a structural disadvantage—nothing, however, that a little heart won’t compensate for.

Because of its success, the hockey team was upgraded during the off season and has been competing this winter in Division I of the DVCHC, led, once again, by their top scorers, senior Amy Loughman and junior Alyssa Agati, who are two of the team’s three captains. The Lady Ice Knights are led by longtime head coach Pat Walker, who strikes the proper balance in his exhortations to make the game fun for the women but something of significance, too. As the playoffs arrive next month, the Lady Ice Knights are nipping at the heels of the U.S. Naval Academy and Slippery Rock University, who sit atop the eight-team Jennifer Parcell Memorial Division, one of two divisions. The DVCHC women’s championship will take place February 15–17, back at the scene of last year’s glory: Centre Ice Rink at the Delaware State Fairgrounds. Once again, Rutgers will be underdogs; once again, the team intends to defy the odds. One thing is for certain: the Lady Ice Knights will have a good time.

Rutgers women’s club hockey team


THE GANG’S ALL HERE: the Rutgers women’s club hockey team, winners of the Division II championship the last two years, will compete in February for the Division I championship of the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Nick Romanenko

Home ice for the Lady Ice Knights is ProSkate, a rink down Route 1 from New Brunswick in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, where they hold practices late Tuesday and Thursday nights and also host weekend games. For away games, the women pile into two SUVs jammed with their sticks and oversized bags of hockey gear for high-jinx forays along the roadways of the mid-Atlantic region.

“The drives have been pretty far this season, but we have made it a good time,” says Loughman, a common sight dashing the length of the ice, her thick braid peeking out from under her helmet. “There is always some off-the-wall conversation being had or song being sung. We all have pretty different personalities, but this year we’ve definitely been able to have them mesh into a real team. We’re here to help each other out.”

Sophomore Gina Kruse, a newcomer to the sport who plays forward, remembers the game when the team was down 1–0 to the University of Virginia. “The puck went behind their goal, and I was able to get to it and pass the puck to the only Rutgers hockey socks I saw. It was Alyssa Agati, and she got the goal to tie the game! To the crowd, I had assisted on a goal; to me, it was the greatest thing I had ever done. But what made the moment even better was my teammates’ reaction. Every single one of them was excited for ME, not just the goal!”

For the team, whose players reflect a wide swath of experience in skating and playing hockey, these are the moments to live for, the interludes of personal triumph and team achievement amid the collective striving. Laura Sammon, a junior who is the team’s unflappable goalie, actually felt she had let her teammates down when Rutgers lost a game (by 9–5) after she was pelted with 75 shots (goalies typically handle, perhaps, 30 shots a game). Others just don’t want to be a liability, making the one big goof-up. For the top players like Loughman and Agati, who are also among the division leaders in scoring, the burden of being relied on to provide the brunt of the scoring (and the other teams’ knowing it) is leavened by their satisfaction in seeing less-experienced players take another big step in their skates.

“When we are on the ice, I am usually helping those who have just started playing,” says Samantha Strauss, a junior who plays forward. “They might be saying ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I’m scared,’ but I always tell them that the worst that can happen is that they will fall, that it could always be a lot worse.”

Susan Zane, a sophomore who has been playing hockey for a year, can’t get over the rush of excitement she feels when she is on the ice. “There’s just this energy on the team that goes beyond wanting to win,” she says. “The camaraderie is like nothing I’ve seen. If somebody scores, we go nuts. We play together—but we also study, hang out, and often have classes together. These girls are family.”