New-Look Pioneers Ready to Prove Worth in Division I


Photos courtesy of Cameron Dodds.

John Fiorino, Production Manager

The William Paterson men’s ice hockey team will return to the ice on Sept. 29 for their season opener against West Chester at the Ice Vault Arena. The Pioneers look much different from last March where they lost to the eventual ACHA Men’s Divison II Florida Gulf Coast University in the semi-finals of the national tournament.

After an incredible 31-3-0 record in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) Division II last season, the Pioneers are making the jump to Divison I. William Paterson was approved on Dec. 4, 2017. During the 2017-18 season, WPU went 7-0 against a slate filtered with Division I opponents such as Navy, Towson, Temple and Villanova, all of which are now division rivals.

The Pioneers are ready to establish themselves against the best the ACHA has to offer. One obstacle the team will have to overcome is the loss of 226 points between four graduated seniors in Colin Edwards, James Karp, Deejay Sabato and James Bobb. The team’s offense fueled the majority of their wins last season, notching 6.45 goals per game to go along with an impressive 31.8 percent power play.  Sophomore defenseman, Walter Keiper, knows that this season will be different, but is looking forward to the challenge.

“With losing many of our key guys last year there are big shoes to fill,” Keiper said. “We will need each player to show up and play to the best of their ability every time we step on the ice.  We need to play our game every day and push each other to make that happen.”

Head Coach Joe Ballance is expecting returning players to step up in a big way and will lean on the vets to take charge. He believes the leadership necessary to win is already a presence in the locker room.

“Senior defenseman Shawn Lacorte will be a factor on both sides of the puck and we expect him to be a strong leader on and off the ice,” Ballance said. “Keiper has taken on responsibility to help out the few seniors as well.”

One of the main components of this team is just how fresh it is, with 14 new faces joining the Pioneers in total–hailing from as far as Colorado, Illinois and Michigan. Chemistry will need to be built, to say the least, and that can be a process. Ballance is aware of this and says it “depends on how quickly we come together and grasp the philosophy.” However, he is confident in the younger players and is eager to see how they play against the competition.

“We like our incoming class and we will need to see what role they will play and the impact they have on this season,” Ballance said.

Ballance will be behind the bench for his tenth campaign with William Paterson. He brings a 236-55-8 record into this year after last seasons tremendous record.

While the Pioneers fell short of their ultimate goal of a National title a year ago, Keiper is yearning to move on from the loss last March and has his sights set on making it back this season.

“This year’s team is completely different than last, but our goals stay the same,” Keiper said. “We all want to make it back to Nationals this year and we will work hard to get there.”

For more information on Pioneers hockey visit their website at