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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Bridgewater Ice Arena - Stonehill Skyhawks

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.29

Bridgewater Ice Arena

20 Bedford Park

Bridgewater, MA 02324

Year Opened: 1995

Capacity: 500

Stonehill Hockey

On April 5, 2022, tiny Stonehill College, a private Catholic school located in Easton, Massachusetts with an enrollment of 2,500 undergraduate students, announced it was moving all of its athletic teams to the NCAA Division I level, effective in the fall of 2022. Prior to 2022, Stonehill was a member of the Northeast-10 Conference in NCAA Division II. The hockey team would begin life in Division I as an independent, as Stonehill’s new home, the Northeast Conference, does not support hockey. While in D-II, Stonehill won three NE-10 conference championships

Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams play their home games at the off-campus Bridgewater Ice Arena. This public rink, located 12 miles from the Stonehill campus, features two NHL-sized rinks, a full-service café and seating for 500. The complex also plays host to numerous high school teams as well as the Bridgewater Bandits of the USPHL.

Stonehill’s athletic teams competed for years as the Chieftains. In 2002 the school decided to change its nickname. After considering several options, Stonehill officially changed its nickname to the Skyhawks in 2005. This name has no connection to a bird or animal but does have a connection to the school’s history.

After the school’s property was purchased by the Congregation of Holy Cross, an airfield on site was leased to the Navy during World War II and to private companies afterwards. The airfield was closed in 1955 as the college grew, but the Navy continued to use the land for training exercises and would employ the Skyhawk aircraft between 1954–1995.

Food & Beverage 3

There is a snack bar located at the back end of the lobby. The menu here isn’t as extensive as other snack bars you’ll find in community rinks, but there are enough choices here to keep all fans satisfied. A combination of breakfast and lunch foods are available here.

Breakfast sandwiches, burgers, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches and meatball subs can be purchased here. If you’re just looking for a snack, an assortment of muffins, candy, popcorn and pop tarts are available. Pepsi products are featured, with hot chocolate and coffee popular choices in this chilly rink. Many fans bring their own beverages in, with lots of Dunkin’ coffee observed in the stands. There are also vending machines in the lobby should the snack bar not be open during your visit.

Atmosphere 1

The game day atmosphere at a Stonehill hockey game is a bare bones one to be sure. With the facility’s physical limitations, you wouldn’t really expect anything more. A simple scoreboard at the far end displays basic game information, while a surprisingly good sound system plays music during play stoppages. The PA announcer goes about his business in an understated manner. There are no promos or contests during the game to distract and there is little to no noise from the sparse crowd in attendance.

There is little evidence at Bridgewater Ice Arena that a Division One hockey team even plays here. The USPHL’s Bridgewater Bandits are the primary tenant, with a sign advertising their presence on Bedford Street along with a large banner hanging at center ice. The pro shop here sells Bandits gear, but no Stonehill swag. The only mention that the Skyhawks even play here are a pair of banners hung in a far corner of the rink.

Neighborhood 2

Given Bridgewater Ice Arena’s location in an industrial park, you wouldn’t expect any attractions or lodging options in the immediate vicinity of the rink. However, there are places to be found a short drive away. Downtown Bridgewater is about two and a half miles away to the north, with Route 44, a local route connecting Providence and Plymouth, passing by three and a half miles to the south. Numerous dining and lodging options can be found in either direction. Barrett’s Alehouse and Fireside Grille are local favorites located close to Bridgewater Ice Arena.

Visitors to Stonehill looking to explore more than just the immediate neighborhood may gravitate to Boston, a 45-minute ride north or Cape Cod, a 30-minute ride to the southeast. A half-hour drive can also bring you to the historic seaside towns of Plymouth or New Bedford. Visitors to the area will find plenty to do in any of these locations, even during the winter months of the hockey season.

Fans 1

It’s early on in Stonehill’s Division One tenure (Stadium Journey attended the Skyhawks’ third ever home game at BIA). An individual associated with the team stated that crowds so far have numbered between 75-100 fans. These numbers appear to be accurate, which places the Skyhawks firmly at the bottom of the NCAA attendance rankings. Hopefully the team will be able to create a following as the program continues to grow.

Most of the fans in attendance appear to have a connection with the players on the ice. With the BIA located a dozen miles from campus, there is little to no representation from the student body at games. The women’s team, which began play this season, has been enjoying slightly larger crowds in their inaugural season.

Access 4

Bridgewater Ice Arena is located 12 miles from the Stonehill campus in suburban Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Situated in a small industrial park just off Route 18, it is very easy to get to from any direction. Interstate 495 passes just a few miles to the south of the rink. Directions to the rink can be found here.

There is plenty of free parking in the lot adjacent to the facility. The Skyhawks play in the east rink, one of two rinks in the facility, which will be on your right as you enter the lobby. Seating consists of metal bleachers that run along the length of one side of the rink. There is some standing room at the near end of the ice. Nets are hung at both offensive zones, but the center sections are free from obstruction. Rest rooms are located just off the lobby and are more than large enough for a typical Stonehill hockey crowd. Be warned that the rink is very chilly, so dress appropriately.

Return on Investment 5

There is no charge to watch a Skyhawks hockey game. Parking is also free in the arena parking lot. It’s entirely possible to go to a Division One hockey game without spending a cent. Even if you decide to get a snack while at the game, you certainly won’t be breaking the bank.

Extras 0

There isn’t a whole lot going on at a Skyhawks hockey game that can be considered extra. This experience is about as bare bones as it gets.

Final Thoughts

The trend in Division One hockey in recent years has been for the smaller schools to move out of community rinks and into new rinks built on campus. As tiny Stonehill College begins competition at the sport’s top level, they find themselves at one of these community rinks. It’s proving to be an inauspicious beginning for the Skyhawks. Here’s a guess that the Bridgewater Ice Arena won’t be a long-term home for Stonehill.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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