Brenden Boyle spent a couple days during the holiday season in Atlanta before boarding an overseas flight with a group of people he barely knew. Boyle spent New Year’s Eve in Munich. He even toured the site where “The Sound of Music” was filmed in Austria.
What sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime sight-seeing trip for the 22-year-old graduate of Westmont Hilltop High School was actually part of a unique experience being part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division III Select Team.
Boyle played six hockey games in various parts of eastern Europe with a select group of 20 collegiate club hockey players.
“It was pretty awesome,” Boyle said Sunday, minutes after landing at Pittsburgh International Airport. “It was good competition and a great experience in a different land and a different culture where everyone acts different.”
When not playing abroad, Boyle is a software engineering major at Robert Morris University. Upon arrival on campus, he joined the Colonials’ Division I hockey team, but his rugged, blue-collar style of play was better suited for the RMU Division III club team, which is a member of the College Hockey East League. Other schools in the league are Pitt, California University of Pennsylvania, Fredonia, Penn State-Altoona, Penn State-Behrend, St. Vincent and West Virginia.
“I went and tried out for the Division I team and made the cut, but it wasn’t a good fit for my style,” Boyle said. “The club team had a first-year coach (Craig Bioni) and I came down after about three weeks and everything just clicked.”
Boyle instantly became one of the club team’s better players and a stalwart at left wing. The team captain, Boyle was chosen for the ACHA Division III Select Team after playing in the league’s All-Star Challenge in Philadelphia. The ACHA gathers all-star players from all its leagues and selected the team following a showcase.
“Once I made the team, I knew I was going even though it was a lot of money,” said Boyle, who spent the summer interning at Bayer to help pay for the trip.
And a successful trip it was.
As a second-line left winger, Boyle helped the United States team, which was comprised of players from places like Michigan, St. Louis and Florida, to a 6-0 record.
“The hockey was fast-paced. It’s a different style. There isn’t as much hitting and the players are good passers,” Boyle said. “Our biggest advantage was we were physical. As the game rolled on, we wore teams down.”
Boyle, who is set to return to his college team for the remainder of his final season, averaged a point per game and played one game on an outdoor rink in Germany.
“I played pretty well but I didn’t have the outcome points wise that I wanted,” Boyle said. “The games were intense, but afterward it was all fun and games.”