UMass Lowell’s women’s ice hockey team faces off against other schools like Westfield State. (Courtesy of UMass Lowell)
The women’s club ice hockey team at UMass Lowell makes the best of what they have. Ice time is expensive, so they practice at the Tsongas Center at 10 o’clock at night. The team does not have a goalie at the moment, but they do have a girl interested that has never played the position before. The formula works: last season they were in a similar situation and emerged with the best record that senior forward and captain Jess Volpert has seen during her time at UMass Lowell.
The struggle is worth it just to play hockey.
“This gives me a chance to continue playing a sport I’ve always played my whole life and it’s the same with a lot of girls on my team. That’s why I came to UMass Lowell — because of the club hockey team. It’s really helped me… it gave me an escape from school and work, all the stresses of being in college just to be a player again,” said Volkert.
UMass Lowell women’s ice hockey takes women of all skill levels – whether they have played varsity hockey in high school or have never strapped on pads. Club fees are between $250-$280, depending on the team’s needs for that particular season. The fees include ice time, paying for travel and warm up jerseys, which Volpert says is a big draw for players.
The only thing that recruits need is a rabid love of the game. During Volpert’s time on the team, women’s hockey has emerged as a formidable club on campus. For the first time in a few years, this season has seen more new members than old members. It is a change that excites Volkert.
Beyond the influx of new girls, there is an uptick in the skill of the players on the team. Volpert says that there are players who have played varsity hockey in high school signed up to play this year.
“That’s an exciting thought because we’re moving from just a purely fun recreational team to one that’s aiming to be more competitive and able to make a name for ourselves as UMass Lowell’s hockey team,” said Volkert.
As a school with a Division I men’s ice hockey team but no female counterpart, UMass Lowell has no further place to look than its club ice hockey team. Volpert says that she would love to see the school develop the club team into a fully Division I school to shake up Hockey East.
The club team plays in the Adirondack division of the Independent Women’s Club Hockey League (IWCHL), a league which includes Boston University, Merrimack College and Harvard University. Volpert says that the Adirondack division is for teams that are a good mix of competitive and fun.
Volpert and the team will be on the road for exactly half of their season. The season consists of 12 games, six at home in the Tsongas Center and six away. Games are normally on Sundays at 4 p.m. back-to-back with the men’s club team.
Located in the eastern conference of their division, UMass Lowell plays Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT), the University of Maine, Bates College, Curry College, Stonehill and the University of New England. Coming off of their most successful season in recent memory thanks in part to their head coach Alexa Smith, Volpert dreams of more.
“We don’t want this to be a waste of our time anymore. We want to make it worth it and make a name for ourselves and make an impact on those who are thinking about coming here,” said Volkert.
One of Volpert’s priorities is making the playoffs. She acknowledges that the competition is stiff, but she has confidence in her teammates. Keeping in mind that last year the squad carried off a 13-5 win at Curry College, a moment that Volpert carries close to her, the goal is attainable.
This ties into another desire of the team. “We’re here to represent the school in the best way that we can with hockey. We want to further UMass Lowell’s outreach in the realm of hockey because we do so much both in men’s club hockey and men’s varsity,” said Volkert.
As the team has struggled, lost and won with each other, above all they want to be remembered for their impact on women’s hockey at the university. Visibility is an enormous motivator for the team. Other schools have women’s club hockey teams that are widely known about, and for Volpert that is her ultimate goal.
“I want to see us get to the point where people know we kick ass,” said Volpert.