Story by Chris Graham
Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show,” featuring an interview with Virginia Tech hockey player Michael Hultberg. Show Length: 10:09.
Virginia Tech’s 5-3 win over Virginia in the Feb. 17 Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League regular-season finale for both schools set up a UVa.-Tech rematch in the first round of this weekend’s ACCHL Tournament.
Perhaps more importantly for the Tech hockey program, which is hosting the ACCHL Tournament in Roanoke, it guaranteed a marquee matchup that should draw thousands of fans to the Roanoke Civic Center.
“There’s a huge base of hockey fans in Roanoke. And so with this growing support, and with the tournament coming up this weekend, we’re hoping for even more support and a chance to show the area that hockey is a pretty good sport,” said junior defenseman Michael Hultberg, who is also an assistant captain on the team and the vice president of the Virginia Tech Hockey Club, in an interview for today’s “SportsDominion Show.”
The program hit a rough patch of ice two years ago when the Ice Station closed its doors unexpectedly, leaving Tech hockey without a home and leaving Hultberg and others wondering if the program that they’ve built up over the years was going to survive.
“It was definitely pretty nervewracking not knowing even in the middle of the summer whether we were going to have a team, whether we were going to have a rink to play at,” Hultberg said. “It was great to hear that the Civic Center, despite the fact that the semipro team left, was still going to have ice down, and that we could still use that ice. Just before this season was the first season that I really knew that we were going to have ice for the next season.”
The club doesn’t seem to have a problem drawing fans – more than 3,000 witnessed the Hokies and ‘Hoos battle it out for rink supremacy in Roanoke last weekend, and similar-sized crowds are expected at this weekend’s ACCHL Tournament, which will also feature teams from Georgetown, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and George Mason.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it. It’s great to host the tournament, and we’ve got a lot of great teams. The league has definitely been going pretty well this year. So we’re looking for this to be a really good playoff tournament,” Hultberg said.
And of course on the ice, the Hokies are looking to make it two-for-two against their rivals from Charlottesville.
“It’s always a pretty intense matchup in any sport between Virginia Tech and UVa. It’s definitely been getting even more so over the past few years. Just last week, we got the win against them, and it was a big win – big crowd out there, and everybody was getting into the game. There were some UVa. fans out in the arena as well. It always ends up being a great game and great environment for hockey,” Hultberg said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.