From The Utah Statesman
By Nathan Dunn
Utah State University’s Hockey Club is a one-of-a-kind program.
Playing in the Men’s Division 2 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, or ACHA, the club isn’t an NCAA sanctioned sport, yet one of the most supported Aggie sports teams in the community. And the support is something that the club thrives off of.
“I go out for warmups and I am just shaking,” said defensemen Trace Farr. “It’s awesome to see the community support. Especially the student support because it’s always cool to see them right next to our bench cheering us on.”
The Aggies play at the Eccles Ice Center in North Logan, a facility originally built for the 2002 Winter Olympics that holds upwards of 2,200 people. Playing in front of capacity or near capacity crowds has benefited the team throughout the season. As of Feb. 10, the team was 24-9-2 on the year and ranked No. 15 in the west division for ACHA M2.
Notably, the support is sustained all-season long, despite the season going nearly seven months.
The first game of the season was Sept. 11, with their last regular-season game scheduled for Feb. 18. But it doesn’t end there. Regionals are Feb. 24-26, and nationals are nearly half a month later, March 14-19. To put in perspective, USU’s football season is four months long, and basketball is roughly five months long. In addition, the hockey team isn’t taking breaks that often.
“It gets pretty challenging, but it is all worth it to come out here and hang out every day,” said goalie Titan Anderson. “The physical toll takes up a lot, but in the end it’s all worth it.”
This season there have been 13 scheduled back-to-back nights of playing hockey, including four weekend tournaments that last for several days, for an opportunity to play more than 40 games in a season. Anderson cracked a laugh calling his team “fine-tuned athletes” in regards to playing long seasons.
“It’s a lot. I wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day,” said forward Bradley Green. “Games that are on the weekends are a battle. It gets tiring, but it’s worth it. We love to play hockey. We don’t like it when our season gets cut short. We want to play as much as possible.”
Because there are few scholarship opportunities for the team, most players are paying their own way through school. Players have to tag on jobs in addition to their seven months of slated hockey. While interviews were being conducted with the players, some of them could only answer a few questions as they had to get to work before they started work or classes after practice at 8:00 a.m.
“A lot of the guys have jobs and school, it’s a lot to balance and grind. A lot of the guys do it really well.” Farr said, “I have work and school, but having a plan helps me stay focused.”
But Farr thinks that USU should make the hockey club a school sport for the university’s sake, not just the club.
“We have the community support, and it’s awesome when the school helps us out when they do. We could bring in a lot of revenue for the school. The next step would be to go to ACHA Division 1 or NCAA Division III,” he said.
To be a part of the hockey club, you must be a Utah State student, adding to the toll of playing sports and working a job. Slating a time commitment of over half a year can put tolls on academics and finances.
Anderson joked about the academic standpoint for the hockey team.
“The boys are all academic weapons.” he said with a smile, “We do homework on road trips and we make sure everyone gets their stuff done as a team.”
Even without being an intercollegiate sport, the hockey team stays directed and oriented. “The hockey team is very structured,” Farr said. “The guys get together to study and get homework done together.”
Through the time commitment, the physical toll, and the dedication needed to play a sport for your school, battling through that makes their season success of its own.
The final home game is Feb. 18 at 7 P.M. against Weber State.
(Originally published at https://usustatesman.com/usu-hockey-seven-months-on-ice/)