MORGANTOWN – When you live in the state of West Virginia and you want to play a non-traditional sport, one that isn’t even played at the prep level, you have to make the most out of what you have.
That is exactly what the Morgantown Mohawks did this season, winning the state championship in ice hockey before moving on to compete and win three games in the national tournament, eventually being knocked out in the quarterfinal round.
The Morgantown Mohawks are comprised of players from four schools that come together to form a single team to compete around the state. Players from Morgantown, University, Grafton, and Albert-Gallatin (Pa.) make up the roster for the Mohawks.
“Basically, there are six teams in the state, with three of them being in Wheeling alone,” Mohawk head coach Robb Rockis explained. “Throughout the season we try and play each other and try to figure out rankings for the state tournament.”
The Mohawks put together a record of 5-2 before heading to Wheeling to compete in the state tournament at WesBanco Arena. They downed Linsly 6-1 in the semifinals before going on to defeat Wheeling Park 4-1 in the final to capture the state championship.
“Right before we left for nationals, BOPARC closed the ice rink, which caused us to travel to Connellsville (Pa.) for our last few practices,” Rockis said. “With the way we were having to find places to practice on limited time, we had to hold tryouts for next season before our final practice for this season. I don’t know what it was, but something during the tryouts clicked and I think that made the team wake up and realize that’s how they needed to play and be from that point on.”
At the national tournament in Minnesota, the Mohawks went a perfect 3-0 in pool play, earning a spot in the knockout stages where they faced a familiar opponent in Bishop Canevin. Despite falling in the quarters, the Mohawks made some noise on the national level for a state that only includes six high school teams.
Rockis, who grew up in Morgantown and has been playing hockey since he was a child, says it is a dream come true for him to see the sport having such success in his hometown.
“Being able to do what we did this year and in Minnesota of all places, it was a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a huge learning experience for our kids and we are so young. This tournament included the high school where Sidney Crosby attended, and we got to play in the arena where the second ‘Mighty Ducks’ film was shot.”
Rockis mentioned that the coaching staff even got to take a tour of the University of Minnesota’s home arena for the men’s hockey team, one of the more-historic programs for collegiate ice hockey.
“It’s awesome for our younger programs as well to see all the pictures on the internet and hear all of the chatter,” Rockis said. “Hopefully those kids set an example for the future of the sport and it continues to grow in the area.”