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W&J hockey team happy to be playing at Ice Mine

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Jason Black | Daily Courier
Members of the Washington & Jefferson hockey team engage in a practice session at the Ice Mine on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 in Leisenring.
Jason Black | Daily Courier
Chris Barron tries to put a puck past netminder Nick Barnett during a Washington & Jefferson practice session at the Ice Mine on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 in Leisenring.

Before the start of their 2013-14 season, the members of the Washington & Jefferson hockey team found themselves in a predicament.

Until this season, the Presidents, a Division I club team that competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), had played all of their home games at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, just minutes from the W&J campus. But that relationship came to an end after last season.

“The Iceoplex decided not to renew our contract,” W&J coach Lou Biancaniello said.

That meant the Presidents needed a new home, and they found a willing partner in the Ice Mine.

“We did a search to find a new rink and one of the rinks was the Ice Mine, and they went above and beyond for us,” Biancaniello said.

The Ice Mine, located in Leisenring, houses the Ice Miners youth hockey organization as well as an adult league and is home to the Connellsville High School hockey team. According to Biancaniello, the Presidents were welcomed warmly.

“We're kind of the marquee tenant,” Biancaniello said. “At the Iceoplex, we were like any other tenant but (the Ice Mine) has really rolled out the red carpet for us.”

After W&J signed a contract with the Ice Mine, the Presidents went to work on making the rink feel like home.

“As far as the facilities, we've been happy with it,” Biancaniello said. “They've allowed us to come in and build a locker room, and the amenities have been great. We've been pleased.”

The Ice Mine, formerly Divito Park, is now owned by Scottdale Bank & Trust. Thomas Kinsey, a representative for Scottdale Bank & Trust, is pleased to have the Presidents at the facility.

“We think it's great having a Division I team playing there,” Kinsey said. “The college players are a great bunch of guys, and it's a high level of hockey that they play.”

Kinsey also noted that W&J's players have worked side by side with the Ice Miners youth hockey players.

Of course, playing at the Ice Mine has one main drawback for W&J.

“It's the travel,” Biancaniello said, noting that a 15-minute drive to the Iceoplex is now a 45-minute commute to the Ice Mine. “That's tough, and it's a little more difficult for the students. But the local community has stepped up, and we're excited to build a new fan base in the Connellsville community.”

Chris Barron, a junior on this year's team, is also excited about the relationship between the team and the Ice Mine.

“We have a great locker room, and it's definitely a friendly atmosphere here,” Barron said. “The drive is a little longer, but the facilities are nice, and it's working really well.”

The Presidents' future at the local rink is uncertain beyond this season. However, Biancaniello would like to see the relationship become long term.

“It's definitely something we have to work out,” Biancaniello said. “We've put a lot of effort into making it a home, so we want to see it become a permanent home.”

The feeling appears to be mutual.

“They seem to be happy there, and we're happy to have them,” Kinsey said. “Hopefully, it's a long-term thing.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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