Whoosh, slap, thud. It’s another save for Paul DeSilva.
DeSilva, a junior, is a third-year goalie for the University of Miami club ice hockey team.
“It’s a huge love-hate relationship,” DeSilva said of his pressure-filled role. “If the team loses, everyone blames it on you. If the team wins, you’re the man.”
He came to the University of Miami as a transfer student halfway through his freshman year. He first attended a New Hampshire prep school but decided it wasn’t worth the time and effort to play Division III hockey. DeSilva wanted something different.
“I wanted to go where I could get a good education, nice weather, pretty girls, beaches,” he said.
He didn’t expect to play hockey at UM, but soon found the roller hockey team. DeSilva struggled, as he had never played off the ice, but pushed through.
“It was obviously worth it because we won the national championship,” he said.
The roller team made the 2010 playoffs as an alternate and, when higher-ranked teams dropped out, Miami was given the final seed. The club won seven straight games and claimed the title in double overtime.
Last year the team transformed into Miami’s first ice hockey team. They went undefeated their first year, but were on probation and could not participate in playoffs. This year, the Canes are 15-0-1 and DeSilva is 7-0 with 109 saves.
He splits goaltending duties with fellow junior Joey Cimaglia.
Cimaglia said the two are “actually good friends,” despite the assumption that there would be intense competition between them. On most teams there is only room for one goalie.
Coach Michael Toyota explained the difference between a good goalie and a great goalie is the mental aspect of the game. He said DeSilva has great mental toughness and knows the fine line between confident and cocky.
“He sees things for what they are,” Toyota said.
DeSilva, a New Jersey native who fell in love with hockey when he saw the “Mighty Ducks” movies, started out as a defenseman, but he kept blocking the goalie, so the natural move was to become a goalie.
With the National Hockey League in a lockout with no end in sight, DeSilva is frustrated because he won’t get to watch his favorite teams. He and his buddies made it somewhere between 10 and 15 Florida Panthers games last year. However, the lockout might actually be a good thing for the young Hurricanes.
“We are the most competitive hockey [team] in Florida except for the NHL,” DeSilva said. “It gives us good PR, and we are showcasing our talents.”
An advantage of playing a club sport and not NCAA is that DeSilva leads a very balanced life. He enjoys being a student, a hockey player and a member of the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. Compared to student-athletes with scholarships, he doesn’t feel the pressure to make the sport his first priority in life.
“Academics is first. Really, that’s why we’re all here,” said DeSilva, a double major in sports administration and English with a minor in music business.
DeSilva has utmost respect for his coaches, who give their time to the team for free.
“They are one of the best coaching staffs in Florida,” he said. “They really care about the team.”
Overall, the team is a big brotherhood. They hang out together outside of hockey practice and games.
Even on road trips, you won’t see these guys glued to their laptops or zoned out watching TV. Instead they will be telling stories and laughing together.
“It’s so much fun,” DeSilva said. “It’s just a great time.”