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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Icecats in need of hot start

After a 2-7 start crippled them last season, the Arizona Icecats hockey team knows the importance of setting the tone for the upcoming season. They’ll get that chance next Thursday at ASU.

“”We’ve got to start out fast and we’ve got to maintain that,”” said head coach Leo Golembiewski. “”There’s an urgency that has to be met, and it’s our job to get that done.””

The Icecats have been an independent team since the 1980s. Although most teams have a conference within the American Collegiate Hockey League, the Icecats don’t have enough Division I teams nearby to have that luxury.

Without a conference to play in, it is the lack of exposure to the other teams throughout the ACHA that forces the Icecats to state their place early.

The majority of the coaches who compile the rankings will only see teams on the west coast once or twice, making it that much more important for the Icecats to come out of the gates strong.

The ACHA’s 55 coaches compile the rankings every two weeks based on wins, losses and strength of schedule. The final top 16 teams get a nod into the postseason tournament.

“”Starting off strong is huge, especially out on the east coast where a lot of the teams are teams we normally don’t get to play,”” said senior defenseman Zach Cherney. “”We have to gain the respect of the ACHA right away so we can get in the top 16 and get back to the tournament.””

But a trip to the Midwest or east coast costs anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000, so the Icecats are only able to play a handful of those teams that would boost their strength of schedule. The Icecats play their first seven games on the road, hoping to alleviate those concerns.

Most ACHA teams can take a two-hour bus ride to play anyone they want, but the Icecats are limited to one trip to Ohio, a couple of trips to ASU and trips to Nevada, Colorado and Utah to play Division II teams.

The Icecats control their own fate, but being left out of a league that gives automatic bids to conference winners and ranks teams based upon strength of schedule doesn’t help their cause.

Although funding issues and scheduling difficulties are clearly beyond the Icecats’ control, they refuse to make any excuses.

“”We can’t really use that as an excuse,”” said sophomore defenseman Geordy Weed. “”I mean, if we wanted to make a label for ourselves we would obviously do it, and that’s what we are trying to do this year.””

Golembiewski’s squad can make a name for itself when it plays in the ACHA Showcase in Ohio from Oct. 9-11. Golembiewski says it is a necessity for the Icecats to win all three games at the showcase to earn the respect of the teams and coaches.

“”That’s why we go to the showcase,”” Weed said. “”That’s where we step in and state our name.””

Due to scheduling issues, funding difficulties and travel complications, the Icecats certainly face disadvantages that other teams don’t have to worry about. But as the players said, they cannot use that as an excuse and must take care of what they can control: wins and losses.

“”You’re against the wall a little bit but you have to go with what you have,”” Golembiewski said. “”If we want to go to nationals, we have to start out strong.””

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