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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Icecats form melting pot

    Icecats junior defender Zack Stommen, left, and junior forward Joe Del Rossi drive the puck down the rink in Saturdays 6-3 loss to Colorado State at Tucson Convention Center. The team features players from all regions of the country for a variety of reasons.
    Icecats junior defender Zack Stommen, left, and junior forward Joe Del Rossi drive the puck down the rink in Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado State at Tucson Convention Center. The team features players from all regions of the country for a variety of reasons.

    Who would have thought one of the most successful teams in the American Colligate Hockey Association would reside in the middle of the desert?

    Since the inception of the Arizona men’s club hockey team in 1979, the team has been comprised of kids from all over the country. This year’s team is represented by 17 different states. No more than four players come from a single state, with only six states – Illinois, New York, Arizona, Michigan, Connecticut and California – producing multiple Icecats.

    “”Welcome to the Icecat nation”” is the new unofficial official slogan of the Icecats, said UA head coach Leo Golembiewski, who is in the process of trying to get the phrase trademarked or copyrighted.

    He thinks the melting pot atmosphere helps the team.

    “”The only problem with it is that everybody is a star from where they come from,”” Golembiewski said. “”All the different styles and techniques – they have make it really interesting trying to coach them.””

    With so many different backgrounds and playing preferences mashed

    together, one would think it would be hard to be successful, but history says the opposite. The Icecats have won 572 games in its history, winning more than 75 percent of their contests, and took home the ACHA national championship after the 1984-1985 season.

    Assistant coach Dave Dougall said the Icecats were similarly diverse during his playing days on the title team.

    Being around guys with all those different backgrounds is cool. Everybody brings something a little different to the table.

    Robbie Nowinski,
    Icecats forward

    Golembiewski came to Tucson after coaching high school hockey in Illinois, which resulted in a large influx of players from that area as well as from the North and Northeast, Dougall said.

    Players’ reasons for coming to Tucson are as varied as their hometowns. Some hear of the successful program through friends or family. Others are just looking for a change of scenery.

    “”Lots of kids might not have the opportunity to play Division-I hockey because they might not be big enough or fast enough,”” Dougall said. “”They’ll come here and find a good hockey program, and oftentimes the out-of-state tuition at the UA is cheaper than in-state tuition at a school where they’re from.””

    “”It’s a totally different atmosphere here,”” said forward Robbie Nowinski, a Haslett, Mich., native. “”In the North, everyone knows all about hockey. Out here, (the Icecats) are a big draw even though lots of people don’t know much about hockey. It’s cool to see people learn more about it.””

    Goalkeeper Nick Boddy, who hails from Bozeman, Mont., wanted to come to a school where he could play hockey as well as get a good education in civil engineering.

    The differences of the players “”helps a lot,”” he said. “”We all have something in common and we’re all here to do the same thing: win hockey games.””

    Forward Matt Conover, from East Amhurst, N.Y., came to Arizona after playing junior hockey in Phoenix.

    “”When I was out east, I heard good things about the program, so I decided to check it out,”” he said, adding it’s nice to play a sport he loves when it’s sunny everyday.

    “”(Arizona) isn’t a big area to pick players from,”” Conover added. “”(We have) guys coming from hockey areas, and that helps us all get to know more about the game.””

    Aside from the perks on the ice, forward and captain Scott Marshall said when players meet to watch other sports, the atmosphere is great because they all have different favorite teams.

    Max Sliwinski, a senior defenseman, said it’s nice to have people from across the country, especially when the teams travel.

    “”The hockey world is a small world, anyway. It seems like everybody knows each other,”” said the Hanover, N.H., native. “”When (the team) is traveling, we know people everywhere. No matter what area we’re in, we can drop somebody a line.””

    The team’s diversity – aside from creating an interesting group dynamic – greatly contributes to the club’s success, Nowinski said.

    “”Everybody comes from different areas and has their different style of play. It really makes the game fun when it all comes together,”” he said. “”Being around guys with all those different backgrounds is cool. Everybody brings something a little different to the table.””

    Added Dougall: “”Everybody is exposed to different levels of competition where they’re from. There’s a wide array of experience coming out here.””

    Marshall, from The Woodlands, Texas, thinks the differences do more to bring the team closer together rather than create division.

    “”When you first get here, you’re not going to know a lot of people to start off,”” he said. “”It kind of forces you to be more outgoing. You have to become part of the family since we’re with each other all the time.””

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