It’s a team you know very little about, but it could be the best on Bradley’s campus.
The Bradley club hockey team concluded its season in dramatic fashion, winning the Mid-America Collegiate Hockey Association Silver Division championship for the first time in the program’s 44-year history.
A 3-2 win over Purdue in the championship put the finishing touches on a season that saw the Braves accomplish their best record ever at 21-8.
“Winning the championship was a surreal feeling,” sophomore team captain Walter Schall said. “The team overcame many struggles and had to deal with a lot of adversity. So much time, work and effort had been put in over the past few years and to see it finally come to fruition was absolutely amazing. When I saw that scoreboard showing zero, I knew it was all worth it.”
Bradley senior goaltender Steve Jordan was named tournament MVP, after recording 69 saves and surrendering just two goals in wins over Robert Morris and Purdue.
“I was actually kind of surprised [to be named MVP],” Jordan said. “There were a bunch of guys on the team that could have easily got the MVP award. I was just glad I could contribute enough to make a difference in the playoffs.”
After a 10-16 campaign in 2009-10, the Braves won 11 more games in 2010-11 in route to a championship season.
“In previous years we had great individual players,” Schall said. “This year we had great players that played well as a team. Every player had a job to do and every shift that player got their job done. When you have great role players playing their role, everything runs much smoother and much more is accomplished.”
Bradley mixed youth with experience, which can sometimes lead to conflict within a team. That wasn’t the case for the Braves.
Schall said last year’s captain Earl Power-Murphy, who returned to the team as a graduate student for one last year of eligibility, helped ease the learning curve a new captain faces.
“He gave me advice on how to handle challenging and conflicting personalities, motivate the team and deal with player-coach conflicts,” Schall said. “The veterans set an example of how the new guys should conduct themselves both on and off the ice.”
“I’m the old guy but I prefer the term elder,” Power-Murphy said. “I think, even though most traditions of teams past have faded, just my presence is a reminder of the honor, respect, work and love that the game requires.”
Players hope the championship will help bring more awareness to a program that many Bradley students know nothing about.
“I think this is a beginning of a strong dynasty,” Power-Murphy said. “The win can open the door to bringing in new players, a stronger fan base and increased funding, which all is essential to defining a strong future for our team.”
So the next time someone asks if Bradley has a hockey team the answer is yes, and a champion one at that.