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Clemson to add Division III club hockey program next season

Leah Marie Pereira
Clemson defenseman Christian Romeo (17) sends the puck toward forward Cade Heinold (9) during Clemson’s game against South Carolina on Nov. 3, 2023.

The Clemson club ice hockey team will add a Division III program to complement its current Divsion II team starting in the 2024-2025 season, according to a College Hockey South social media post. The new program will join the AAU DIII level and will compete against other DIII CHS programs, such as Miami, Florida Atlantic, Tennessee, Kennesaw State and Florida State, to name a few.

The announcement came after the club concluded its most successful semester in team history, sporting a 10-4-0 record under new head coach Mike DeCarle.

“I think it’s a really exciting time for the program,” club president Ben Brucker told The Tiger. “When I first came to Clemson, we barely had enough kids for one team. I think it shows how far we have come and hopefully is a sign that the program will continue to grow at a quick rate.”

“Personally, I’m stoked that the program has been able to add another team,” team captain Thomas Samuelsen added. “When I arrived at Clemson, we were barely able to field one team, and we weren’t very good. Now, we are not only sitting atop our division but also adding another team, which I never thought would happen. I know when myself and the other seniors on the team graduate we will be able to look back and feel good about all we have done to help grow the program!”

At the end of last season, the club opened up to The Tiger about its struggle with insufficient funds; many players were concerned they could not afford to have a season at all. They’re hoping that adding a second program will help them prove the club’s significance on campus.

“When it comes to growth with the school, I think the biggest plus is that we will be able to grow our student involvement,” Brucker said. “Taking another 20-30 kids to play and hopefully also getting some more managers is a great way to have more students be a part of our club. This will help gain the school’s recognition of our importance while also spreading the word to more students that we even have a hockey program.”

Not only do the current players believe the new program will benefit the club in terms of its relationship with Clemson and its student body, but they also think the new team will promote a more competitive atmosphere for current and future players.

“I think it will only make the program stronger,” Brucker said. “The more kids involved, the more competitive the entire program gets. This allows us to keep kids on the DIII team who may not have made the DII team but, while playing (DIII), will be able to improve enough to make the higher team.”

Samuelsen shared Brucker’s sentiment.
“Adding a DIII will give some good depth to our program and, most importantly, give more Clemson students the chance to continue to play hockey at the collegiate level,” Samuelsen said. “In the past two years, we have had over 50 guys at tryouts, and unfortunately, we had to cut around half of them because we have only had one team. Not only will adding a DIII team give more opportunities to students at Clemson, but it will give Clemson hockey a broader reach and continue to move our program in the right direction.”

With the new team, students who typically would not make the Division II roster have the opportunity to train among and compete against other players of their skill caliber rather than not participate at all and, consequently, build the foundation for the higher-level team. The Tigers hope this addition will aid them in eventually moving up to the CHS Division I level and, one day, possibly bring NCAA Division I hockey to Clemson.

“Adding the DIII team will double the number of students who get a chance to continue to play hockey at the collegiate level,” Samuelsen added. “More players means more awareness on campus, which is great for the program. Throughout my time at Clemson, I’ve witnessed our program grow in terms of players but also awareness on campus. In the past couple of years, we feel like we have done a good job establishing ourselves on campus, but adding a DIII program will only help that. Each year, we get more and more recognition from Clemson and the outside community, so I expect to see an even bigger jump with that next season.”

The Tigers are excited about the addition and know this remains true: the future is bright for Clemson hockey and college hockey in the South.

“For Clemson University to field two teams is a testament to how much hockey is growing not only at our school but also in the South as a whole,” Samuelsen said.

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Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
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