And today the men's ice hockey team thrives as a club sport under the Penn Recreation Department and plays in the America Collegiate Hockey Association Division II level, as a member of the Great Northeast Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The team plays approximately 30 games from September to February, and this season, things have really picked up.
Scott Carmack, the head coach, says that this is the best team since he came aboard three seasons ago.
Carmack says that early on this fall, the players were absorbing what the coaches were teaching, putting in a tremendous amount of effort, drive and determination and really finding their groove as a team.
“Once we really got into our systems and found what we wanted to accomplish on the ice as a team, the goals started going in,” Carmack says. “The chemistry has been strong between the lines, and we have been finding the back of the net consistently.”
“The team has found a real identity,” says Skoritowski, a Philadelphian who is also a member of Sigma Chi and participates in the University’s alternative spring break program. “They are a bunch of characters. They are really funny and goofy guys, but everyone knows when it’s time to work. We need to put in the grit and time to improve ourselves and do what we need to do to win games.”
The team’s winning attitude, in conjunction with all of the hard work and perseverance, has paid off, making the 2013-14 season a banner year so far.
Since Oct. 5, Penn’s ice hockey team has had nine consecutive wins, with one tie –- taking down Yale, Lafayette, Susquehanna, La Salle, Rutgers, Long Island University’s C.W. Post, Seton Hall and the team’s biggest rival, Princeton.
Sophomore Joey Maiocco, from Springfield, Ill., a member of the hockey team, the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Italian Club, is majoring in finance and biology. He’s excited about being part of the team’s winning streak.
“Winning is one thing you never get tired of, and, especially after the rough season we had last year, it's very rewarding to see all the W's up on the schedule,” says Maiocco. “This win streak is awesome.”
Skoritowski attributes the team’s synchronicity and growth to its coaches, along with the players’ tenacity. He says the best thing about playing ice hockey at Penn is the team camaraderie.
“I’ve made some of my best friends at Penn, and probably in life, through playing hockey here. You can ask anyone who has ever played competitive ice hockey. That’s just kind of how it goes; the sport breeds camaraderie,” Skoritowski says. “Whether it’s sticking up for your linemates on the ice or celebrating with the guy who scored the game-winning goal, nothing beats it.”
Maiocco agrees, adding that the members of the team have grown up with youth hockey and idolizing the players in the National Hockey League, so there’s naturally a special connection among teammates.
“Especially being someone from southern Illinois," he says, “where hockey players are few and far between, it’s refreshing to meet people who share the same love for the game that I do.”
Now as the season heads into the second semester, there are only five games left, and the men’s team has reached a critical point. They are currently in sixth place in the league and in the last playoff spot.
Two other teams, Muhlenberg and Susquehanna, are also vying for that playoff spot.
“The pressure is on,” Carmack says. “We’re gunning to make a run in the playoffs, a place the men’s team hasn’t been in a while. We’re capable of winning out, so it’s going to come down to how bad the team wants it.”
Plus, a little moral support from Penn’s student body and others cheering in the bleachers never hurt. All the games are free and open the public.
“We love our fans, our fans love us,” Skoritowski says. “Some of the games get wild. Just ask anyone who was at the Princeton game this year. We encourage everyone to come out to the games and have a good time.”
When they’re not busy on the ice, the men’s ice hockey team is working to recruit new players.
“We know there are guys on campus and future students who play hockey forward, defense and goalie. We just have to connect with them,” Carmack says. “We hope the tradition of ice hockey here will continue to grow stronger and maybe one day, Penn will have another Division I program like we did back in the 1970s.”
“There’s a 116-year tradition of the program and that’s a special thing to be a part of,” Skoritowski says. “But it’s the guys you sit next to in the locker room and on the bench that give their blood, sweat and tears for each other that make playing hockey at Penn truly special.”