The UB American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) hockey team (0-1) visited Niagara University (2-0) on Friday, Sept. 29 to play in the second annual “Midnight Madness” game, honoring former Niagara player Patrick Romano, who died in a house fire in 2021.
Niagara held a pregame moment of silence to honor Romano. His mother, Charlene Romano, took the ice for a ceremonial puck drop between the two teams. The packed crowd at Dwyer Arena erupted in support of the Romano family, and play began just after 11:59 p.m. Friday night.
UB head coach Morgan vonHedemann applauded the fans in attendance — representing both UB and Niagara — for showcasing the local community’s unity.
“It was really great to see, there was a whole section of UB fans as well,” he said. “We’re all working together in the Buffalo area to show what we’re about.”
vonHedemann said the pregame memorial resonated because the Bulls also recently lost one of their own — former player and coach Michael “Shelly” Schalberg, who died in August.
“It was a special moment, especially because we lost Shelly. It hits close to home how quickly things can come and go,” vonHedemann said. “It’s important to give that to the next generation.”
The game marked the season opener for UB’s ACHA Division-I team. Despite winning the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League (NECHL) playoffs last year, the Bulls came into a hostile environment as heavy underdogs to the No. 10-ranked Purple Eagles. Niagara, members of the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL), won the game handily, 7-1, and outshot UB 69-19.
Buffalo kept the game within two goals through the first two periods, thanks to the stellar play of junior goaltender Anthony LoRe. He finished with 62 saves on 69 shots. The lone UB goal was scored by sophomore forward Tanner Douglass in the second period.
Despite the disappointing performance, vonHedemann said his team can learn from the loss. He acknowledged that Niagara is a premiere opponent and that his team can benefit from the high-level competition.
“It showed everybody the work ethic we need to start putting in,” vonHedemann said. “It makes me hopeful for what we have moving forward.”
UB looks to get back on track and begin the defense of its NECHL title. The Bulls host Robert Morris (3-1) on Friday, Oct. 6 for their home opener at the Northtown Center.
Prior to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. puck drop, the Bulls will host a memorial ceremony for Michael Schalberg.
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Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor of The Spectrum. He previously served as senior sports editor. Outside of the newsroom, Ryan spends his time announcing college hockey games, golfing, skiing and reading.