North Texas Daily

Club hockey team striving to be best in Texas

Club hockey team striving to be best in Texas

Club hockey team striving to be best in Texas
February 16
23:53 2015

Alex Lessard / Staff Writer

Most of the student athletes in Mean Green sports practice on campus during the day. But at 10:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday, 28 miles south of Denton in Irving, the Mean Green club hockey team hits the ice.

Five years ago, the North Texas hockey team was merely a disorganized club looking to get on its feet. Since then, it has become a force to be reckoned with in Division II hockey, posting a 19-3 record this season.

“My first year here [as a player], we were not good. We were terrible,” head coach Ron Kennedy said.

Although the team is still considered a sports club, it is regulated by the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which is split into three divisions, each with four regions. North Texas plays in the West region of Division II, which includes  recognizable schools like Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. Kennedy said Texas schools are commonly overlooked in  rankings due to what he call a West Coast bias among the voting committee.

“Texas does not get a lot of love. I’ll definitely say that,” Kennedy said. “We don’t play the type of schedule they do, so we probably don’t get looked at as much as some of the other teams”

After a down year last season, the Mean Green created a winning atmosphere under Kennedy, who is in his first year as head coach.  He established friendships with many of the team’s returning members during his five years as a player in the team’s early stages, and the camaraderie shows during his laid back practices.

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Goalkeeper Dominic Cavazos attempts to block a slapshot by a fellow teammate on Feb. 11 during a scrimmage practice at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Irving.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” senior center Bowman Fulton said. “He lets us have our fun, but he’s serious enough, obviously, to get the wins.”

Fulton grew up in the Dallas area and began playing hockey when he was just two years old. The assistant captain is in his fourth season with the Mean Green.

Much like Fulton, sophomore goalie and club president Dominic Cavazos has played hockey his entire life. When an opening for team president became available after his first season, Cavazos didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity.

“I was one of the younger guys, so I decided since I would be here for a while that I should just step up and do it,” Cavazos said.

After former head coach Neil Sheehan stepped down due to personal reasons last season, Cavazos reached out to a familiar face in Kennedy to take over the reins.

“He’s stern, but fair,” Cavazos said. “He’s always willing to be around the guys.”

Cavazos said a lot of schools have more funding than North Texas, making it even more difficult to get over the hump and become a powerhouse program.

Nevertheless, the team has fared well against top competition this season, defeating both No. 11 California State University at Long Beach and No. 15 University of Denver.

“[We’re] definitely a team that can contend with the ranked teams,” Fulton said.

The team participated in an arduous four-day showcase earlier this season, hoping to get more national recognition as a program.

“You come back from a weekend like that [and] you kind of wish you played a sport that wasn’t full contact all the time,” Fulton said. “It definitely beats you up, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The more showcases a team participates in, the greater the chances are to get ranked by the ACHA executive board. The Mean Green has only participated in two showcases this year, but is looking to raise that number to four or five in future seasons.

Recruiting for the team can be a challenge. Fulton said the team doesn’t recruit heavily, but still makes sure to tell local players about what North Texas has to offer.

“We definitely talk to our buddies,” Fulton said. “A lot of us grew up around here, so we know people.”

Walk-ons are encouraged to come to tryouts each fall. In his fourth season with the Mean Green, Kennedy was setting up the check-in table when he spotted seven strangers standing along the glass waiting for their opportunity.

North Texas defeated Texas Tech University 9-4 on Friday and 5-3 on Saturday and looks to finish out the year strong. All Mean Green home games are played at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Farmers Branch and are free to attend.

“We just want to make a big influence on Texas hockey and show that we are the best in Texas,” Cavazos said.

Featured Image:Assistant captain for North Texas hockey Bowman Fulton waits for his turn to take slap shots at the goal on Feb. 11 at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Irving. Photos by Tom Gonzalez – Staff Photograph

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