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The Penn men's ice hockey club saw a lot of action in front of its own net last Friday against Villanova. The Red and Blue expect to do better. (Jacques-Jean Tiziou/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

Usually when a team wins a league championship, it comes into the next season with confidence that it can defend the crown. Not the Penn men's ice hockey club. The Red and Blue are confident enough, but not about defending their Delaware Valley Club Hockey Conference title. That's because they've dropped out of the DVCHC this year. Penn will now focus its efforts on the more competitive Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association. The Quakers are also hoping to advance this season to the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division II national tournament. For Penn, which finished fourth in the MACHA last season, it won't be easy. "There are maybe four games we can afford to lose," goalie Patrick Baude said. One of those games was its opener, a game last Friday at the Class of 1923 Rink against Villanova, which has a club in the ACHA's Division I. The Quakers did indeed lose to their opening-day visitors. Villanova led just 2-1 after one period, but went on to a 9-2 triumph over the Red and Blue. The Wildcats may be one of the toughest teams that Penn plays in a season that will stretch until late February or early March, depending upon how long the Quakers last in the playoffs. Overall, dropping the DVCHC means that Penn will play a tougher schedule throughout their 2000-01 campaign. "We played 32 games last year, and some of them were a waste of time," Penn captain Whit Matthews said. "The guys we have now would rather play some better teams and maybe go to nationals." Penn currently has 24 games on its slate -- 15 of which will be on home ice -- plus the playoffs. The Quakers will play each MACHA team home and away, plus a number of challenging non-conference teams. Among those teams is the varsity team from the University of Scranton, an NCAA Division III school that the Red and Blue will visit this Saturday. Penn's next game is tomorrow afternoon, a 5:15 p.m. start against Millersville at the Class of 1923 Rink. The Marauders finished out of the running in the MACHA last season and also played with the Quakers in the DVCHC. Penn's opening game last year was a loss to Millersville, but the Red and Blue came back to win the second matchup of the two teams later in the season. Penn then heads to Scranton. The Red and Blue will return to Philadelphia for a game next Wednesday against Drexel at Class of 1923, which is the home rink for both teams. The Dragons are another Division I club, and their players were in the stands last Friday, taking notes on both of their future opponents. "A lot of teams [last year] were just to fill the schedule," Baude said. "It's good to get some real competition." The Quakers hope and expect that they will not only face real competition, but that they themselves will be real competition, all the way up to nationals.

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