North Texas Daily

Club hockey team finding its niche in non-hockey state

Club hockey team finding its niche in non-hockey state

September 17
00:28 2015

Courtney Meadors | Staff Writer

@court_meadors

Despite sports like football, basketball and baseball dominating the athletics landscape, hockey is starting to find its place in Texas. Young nationally acclaimed stars like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin play locally for the Dallas Stars and seven Dr. Pepper STARCenters are located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

With the sport growing in popularity, it is only fitting that the UNT club ice hockey team has become a staple of club sports on campus. Club president Garrett Nall said the team’s rise could be attributed to the local professional team.

“I think it really goes back to the Dallas Stars organization coming down here from Minnesota,” Nall said. “I think the success they’ve had down here was a little bit unexpected when they moved the team.”

Brooks Langschwager  (91) pursues the Texas State defender in the attacking zone on September 11th. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Brooks Langschwager (91) pursues the Texas State defender in the attacking zone on Sept. 11. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

North Texas plays in the Division II American Collegiate Hockey Association and was tied for 15th in the Western Division,  the same division as hockey powerhouse University of Denver. They also play in the same league as Boston College University, another perennial hockey school.

Given the competition, the upcoming season presents some new challenges for North Texas. Compared to the 2014-2015 team, this Mean Green squad is, for the most part, fresh to the ACHA hockey scene.

“I want a lot of guys just to get their feet wet because a lot of them haven’t played ACHA hockey,” Nall said. “So it’s a different experience. The main goal for right now at the start of the season is just to get everybody acclimated to what they’re doing. But we can be better than we were last year to say the least.”

For those who are not used to playing ACHA level hockey, such as rookie Andrew Keane, the transition has been a challenge.

“This is my first time playing competitive hockey and my first time playing hockey in a year,” Keane said. “The games are longer and much harder.”

The UNT Ice Hockey Team talks at their net before facing off against Texas State on September 11th. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

The UNT Ice Hockey Team talks at their net before facing off against Texas State on Sept. 11. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Adjusting to a higher degree of competition may be the least of the team’s concerns. From buying a pair of skates to paying for facility usage to practice, maintaining a club hockey team can become costly in a hurry.

While North Texas is not in dire straits yet, fear of keeping up with the costs of the team does have an effect on the players.

“I think there’s definitely been a couple instances where money has been a barrier to keep people from playing, without a doubt,” Nall said. “I wish it didn’t have to be like that. But when you look at an NCAA team they definitely have everything paid for through boosters, and [the university] is actually paying for the kids to play as opposed to the other way around for us.”

The club started their 2015-2016 campaign last weekend, playing Friday and Saturday against Texas State University. North Texas lost both games, despite showing flashes of quality play. Keane scored only four minutes into the game and also managed to tie the game with 40 seconds remaining.

Forward Tristen Pierce attributed the unsuccessful weekend to nerves.

“I think early on we had pregame jitters that went into our play,” Pierce said.

Alternate captain Brad Harley (6) stops to defend the puck from a Texas State defender on September 11th. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

Alternate captain Brad Harley (6) stops to defend the puck from a Texas State defender on Sept. 11. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

While their initial weekend didn’t start out the way they had hoped, the team remains optimistic both on the ice and for the future of their club.

Many Northern and Midwestern states proudly display their NCAA hockey teams, which is not always the case in the state of Texas. And even though the strain of not being in the NCAA can take its toll on players, Nall said the dream of having a sponsored team is worth playing for.

“About every Texas school has a club team so there’s definitely hockey fans that are at every school,” Nall said. “It’s just a matter of being able to have the funds and the turn out to produce a NCAA-caliber team. There’s a lot that would need to be done for us to have a NCAA team, but I would love it if we did. I think that would be one of the coolest things. It would be unreal, a dream come true honestly.”

Featured Image: Andrew Keane (11) turns the corner in the Texas State zone on Sept. 11. Dylan Nadwodny | Intern Photographer

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