Nov 20, 2019

Hockey still clubbin’ for national title

Juan Villa / The Collegian

They trade in their pajamas and warm beds for skates and a freezing ice skating rink every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. — a time when the sun has yet to rise and many other students are sleeping.

In the last few years, the Fresno State ice hockey team has made a name for itself and proved that it takes more than just a love of hockey to win.

In 2005, the team attended the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Tournament and finished sixth in the nation out of 120 teams.

Juan Villa / The Collegian

“These guys have a will and determination that makes it exciting to come and watch because you can see them bleeding, putting their heart and soul into every shift and every play that we have,” said coach Marcel Bourdase. “And that’s something that’s rare in sports.”

Will and determination has helped the team to succeed in situations where other teams may have failed.

Last weekend the team traveled to Arizona and beat Northern Arizona University 2-1 — with eight players.

“Anytime you’re playing competitive hockey, you’re not going to win a whole lot of games with eight players,” Bourdase said. “That’s what made Saturday night so amazing. It’s one of the proudest moments in my career.”

After an on-ice brawl, three Fresno State players were suspended, leaving the team no choice but to continue with only eight players.

Goaltender Joe Ricupero had to suit up as an extra player to compensate for lost manpower.

“I don’t know how to describe it — it was really up and down,” Ricupero said. “The first game we got blown out. The second game was just like night and day.”

Because of accomplishments like these, the team’s unwavering goal of becoming ACHA national champions may be accomplished in the near future — if the players continue to improve their performance, Bourdase said.

“You don’t need to put a number on your win total,” Bourdase said. “All you need to do is, every time [the players] step out onto the ice [they make sure] that they’re working their butts off to get better. And if everybody’s doing that, we will get better and get to raise a trophy at the end of the season.”

This year, there are only 13 players, including two goalies — only enough for two lines.

Typically, a team has enough players for at least three lines.

“It’s a huge disadvantage,” Bourdase said.

Ricupero agrees.

“The teams that we go against, as a whole, it’s harder because we don’t have the numbers,” he said.

Another disadvantage is the fact that the team is considered a “non-varsity team,” meaning it is not an official Fresno State team and does not receive any funds from the university or the athletic department.

Each player is required to pay their dues — this year it totaled $1,800 — to aid the costs of travel expenses, uniforms and other necessities.

Players must also pay for their own equipment and gear.

Despite those few disadvantages, the Fresno State ice hockey team has shown that a group of hard-working individuals can succeed.

“It used to be nobody knew we had a hockey team. You would say ‘Fresno State hockey team,’ and they go ‘What? We have a hockey team?’” Bourdase said. “Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we have 20 players every year and you’ll be seeing us bringing home lots of different championships — hopefully within the next year or two, a national championship.

“I know that’s a big goal on everyone’s mind and it’s something we came close to.”

Next Home Games…

Games for the month of October.

• Oct. 6 vs. CSUN
8:30 p.m. at Gateway Ice Center

• Oct. 13 vs. San Diego State
5 p.m. at Gateway Ice Center

• Oct. 27 vs. Sacramento State
3:30 p.m. at Save Mart Center

More information can be found at

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