CLARION — Cortland Altimus couldn’t play ice hockey at Seneca Valley.
It conflicted with football.
So he did the next best thing.
“I played Inline hockey at Seneca and played a lot of dek hockey, too,” Altimus said. “I was ready to transition to ice hockey, but the time schedule there didn’t work with football.”
Once he decided to attend Clarion University, his football career was over. The 2016 SV graduate figured his Inline hockey career might go on hiatus as well.
“Then I heard about an Inline hockey club on campus through Facebook and decided to play,” Altimus said.
As a college freshman, he quickly found out the Inline hockey program at Clarion was not as successful or popular as the program he was part of in high school.
The Clarion team had only nine players — not all students — and played in an adult league in Grove City.
“We wanted to play against other schools in a collegiate league,” Altimus said. “Our team back then, in the situation we were in ... It wasn’t going to last.”
The president of the Clarion Inline team dropped off after that season. Seth Kaminski, a New Castle resident and a good friend of Altimus, became president of the organization and Altimus became vice president.
Together, they helped turn around the fortunes of Clarion Inline hockey.
“We joined the College Inline League down at Robert Morris University,” Altimus said. “We put together a proposal to become an official club sport at the university and presented it to student council.”
Last fall, the team received $14,000 in funding from Kristian Taylor, director of campus recreation. The team wound up reaching the championship series of its league last winter, losing the three-game series to Duquesne.
Clarion Inline is an official university club sport this year. There are 16 students on the team, which makes the 90-minute trip to Robert Morris once a week to play league games.
Luke Vilella, Altimus’ roommate at Clarion, played ice hockey at Seneca Valley. He is a forward on the Clarion Inline team while Altimus has developed into one of the top goaltenders in the league. Both are majoring in communications at Clarion.
“I missed the game so much,” Vilella said of hockey. “When I had a chance to play Inline here, I jumped on it.
“I played Inline for a few years before joining the Seneca Valley (ice hockey) team, so I know what the game is all about.”
Vilella is a captain on the Clarion team.
“This is a dedicated bunch,” he said of the team. “We come together once a week and work hard together to win games.”
Clarion is 6-3 on the season thus far despite having no place on campus to practice.
“That’s the next step,” Altimus said. “We’ve been looking around for a place. There is no rink around here.
“This is the first year we’ve gained access to a van that a bunch of us use to ride down to games together. We play either Wednesday or Thursday night each week.”
Altimus and Kaminski have been using social media, flyers posted around campus and informational meetings to increase the size of the team’s roster.
“We just want to make sure students on campus know we’re here,” Altimus said.