When Joshua Zirkel of Levittown, N.Y, a Media Studies/Production major, began his freshman year at Mount Saint Mary College, the ice hockey veteran longed to get back to the game he loved.
As it turns out, he wasn't alone.
Two years later, Zirkel serves as president of an ice hockey club team composed of Mount students, known as the Knights.
They're off to a good start: Just last December, the team won Ice Time's Mid-Hudson Adult Hockey League's championship for the D-League.
Blades of steel
The Mount has more than 20 sports teams for students, from softball and basketball, to golf and tennis.
But for Zirkel, ice hockey will always hold a special place in his heart.
"I've been playing ice hockey my whole life and it's given me some of the best opportunities I've ever had," he explained. "When I came to the Mount...I realized how much I missed the game."
As a freshman, Zirkel shared his desire to play ice hockey to fellow Mount student Thomas "TJ" Coyne of Staten Island, N.Y., a Nursing major. After asking around and sparking the interest of several other students, Zirkel and Coyne took their idea to the college's Athletics department. Together, they took the next steps to bringing their idea to fruition.
But like a great many other things, the COVID-19 padnemic put their plans for a Mount ice hockey team in the penalty box.
The Mighty Knights
Zirkel and Coyne would not be so easily deterred.
In the Fall 2021 semester, they gathered about half a dozen like-minded Mount students (and a few other volunteers from around the area) to form the Knights ice hockey club team.
Playing in the adult league at Ice Time Sports Complex, they ended their season 10-2. Like something out of a movie, their final game was a real nail-biter, said Zirkel.
"It was a really close game," he explained. "The last two minutes were absolutely terrifying. They were in our zone the whole time."
As the Knights played to their eventual 3-2 win, their friends and family cheered them on.
"They were really behind us the whole time," said Zirkel. "I think that was the moment when we said, 'All right, people want to see this. People want to be here. And we want to play. So let's figure out how to do this'" as an official Mount team.
The Mount students' hard work and enthusiasm served as a proof of concept, "show[ing] that there was an interest on campus for ice hockey and a passion behind it," said Zirkel.
Winning the D-League championship just strengthened their desire to continue.
The team's current goal, Zirkel explained, is to recruit more players. Once the Knights have a full complement of players, they can join the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) and play in that league next year.
Helping them along the way are Trevor Purcell, assistant Mount Athletics director; Andy Crane, head coach; R. Scott Russell, assistant professor of Sports Management; and Mount students like Ryan Greenwood of Brooklyn, who serves as the team's vice president and goalie.
"This time next year, I'd love to see us as a first-year team in the ACHA," said Zirkel.