Regardless of the sport being played, Rowan University and Richard Stockton College always add a little something to their games. Add the ability to hit each other and you have yourself a heated rivalry that goes beyond the drive down the Atlantic City Expressway.
Both schoolâ€™s club menâ€™s hockey teams met up at the historic Boardwalk Hall for a non-league match up with Rowan skating away as the victors, 5-1.
â€œItâ€™s like a big brother, little brother game,â€ said Profs head coach John Caulfield on Stocktonâ€™s program. â€œThey definitely looked forward to playing us. I know a couple of kids on their program and I know they definitely wanted to make an impression playing against us … Theyâ€™re a little familiar with each other. As you know, familiarity breeds contempt and I think it makes for better hockey.â€
It was the first time in the Hallâ€™s 85-year history that two collegiate ice hockey teams played there.
â€œItâ€™s nice,â€ Caulfield said. â€œEven in an average run-of-the-mill game being the winning team is certainly the best way to go. But I think it definitely makes it special. Youâ€™re playing here on a big stage like this and the kids were a little thrown off by the depth of the rink. Weâ€™re not used to seeing big joints like this so this was definitely a good win.â€
Forward Eric Schenk had the honor of scoring the gameâ€™s first goal. He stole the puck from a Stockton defense-man and lifted the back-hand shot over goalie Chris Costaâ€™s right shoulder to give the Profs the 1-0 lead less than five minutes in.
â€œIt felt real good. I got the team going,â€ Schenk said. â€œI havenâ€™t found the net much this season so getting that one really early in the game was a self-motivator.â€
Stockton tied the game up less than 10 minutes later but that was going to be the only shot to get past goalie Dan Kelchner. J.C. Caulfield then broke the tie with under a minute to play in the first to give Rowan the full momentum.
Rowan scored twice in the second from Robert DeSimone and Colin Davis and Ryan Massari scored late in the third for the Profs to help put away the Ospreys.
It was a fun atmosphere for the players as well. Kelchner got a rush from playing in the stadium setting.
â€œI liked the fans heckling us a little but, it was fun,â€ said Kelchner, who made 21 stops for the win. â€œSome guys banging on the glass behind me, getting a little intense. It was a good time.â€
Defense-man and alternate captain Nigel Shockley, who is known to deliver a big hit at every chance he gets, said the experience at the Hall was a lot of fun.
â€œI was pretty excited actually,â€ Shockley said. â€œItâ€™s always fun playing in big stadiums like this. I mean obviously we arenâ€™t going to fill the house but itâ€™s fun looking around seeing a couple thousand seats around you, bright lights. Itâ€™s fun. Itâ€™s always fun.â€
There hasnâ€™t been any form of professional hockey in Atlantic City since the Boardwalk Bullies of the East Coast Hockey League inhabited the Hall from 2001-2004, bringing a Kelly Cup Championship to Atlantic City in 2003.
Over this past winter, Atlantic City has been host to two American Hockey League games and four ECHL games featuring the Albany and Trenton Devils of the New Jersey Devils organization. It will also host a portion of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament next month.
â€œI remember when my kids were little and the Bullies were here and weâ€™d come here,â€ John Caulfield said. â€œI just think this is an incredible, historic building. I mean the architecture alone is totally amazing and you walk out through the tunnel and glance out over the ice, itâ€™s a pretty cool feeling.â€
But for John Caulfield, he got to coach against one of the former Bullies in his own house. Ian Walterson, who captained the Bullies to a championship in 2003, is now the head coach of the Stockton ice hockey team.
â€œI honestly donâ€™t even think about it that way,â€ John Caulfield said on beating the former Bully. â€œI know Ian off the ice a little bit from coaching but now Iâ€™m going to use that in my bragging. I beat a former Bully.â€
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