Utica College anticipates return of winter sports


Photo: Utica College Athletics

Matthew Breault, Staff Writer

After the cancelation of fall sports, many at Utica College are looking at the prospect of winter sports and the much-anticipated returns of hockey and basketball. Sporting events at the college have been put on hold for the past six months.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, the Utica College men’s hockey team was riding a 20-game win streak which was the longest active streak in all of NCAA men’s ice hockey. The Pioneers had just been named the number one seed in the NCAA tournament before the pandemic struck.

On the court, the men’s basketball team finished with a record of 18-8, which accounted for the most wins in a single season for Utica since 2007.

Utica College Director of Physical Education and Athletics David Fontaine said he believes winter sports can be done this semester, but it all depends on the changing scenario that COVID-19 presents.

“As we’re actively working toward a season, it depends so much on COVID-19,” Fontaine said. “We have to play by the rules and see where we are when it comes time to make the decision.”

Fontaine also mentioned the Empire 8 and their role in determining if winter sports have a season.

“The seasons are scheduled to start on Oct. 1,” Fontaine said. “The presidents of the Empire 8 have to vote on that day to see what is going to happen.”

UC men’s hockey sophomore John Moncovich said he hopes to have a hockey season this winter so the team can continue where they left off last season.

“With everyone doing what they’re supposed to do, it’s a very good possibility we have a season,” Moncovich said. “I’m still very optimistic that we will have a season.”

Basketball is another sport that is looking to continue their success heading into this upcoming season. Utica College junior Guard Darius Hopkins also believes that the winter sports season can be done.

“I do think we’ll be able to have a season,” Hopkins said. “Everyone has to make sure they follow the necessary protocol so we are able to move in the right direction.”

Many professional sports teams are putting a restriction on how many fans are able to attend the games. Although these circumstances are unfortunate to players, Fontaine understands that some things need to be done.

“The season is going to look different but we’re not going to truly know how different until we see how it plays out,” Fontaine said. “I do miss watching the games and I am very excited to see how things play out.”

Moncovich said he would love to have the fans back at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, but everyone would have to take the necessary precautions.

“I’m all for having fans in the stands but obviously we would have to follow the guidelines,” Moncovich said. “Hopefully we could start at 25 percent capacity and slowly work our way back to normal.”

Whether there are fans in the stands or not this season, UC athletes are eager to return. Hopkins is very anxious for his upcoming season on the court.

“I’m extremely excited,” Hopkins said. “I feel like we have a really good team with multiple people that can contribute in a positive way.”

Utica College is looking forward to the possibility of a winter sports season this year. UC also recognizes the help they have received in order to make this a possibility.

“I want to personally thank everyone who has helped us out this semester,” Fontaine said.