A tradition that’s been 17 years in the making

Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

Ice hockey looking to build off last season’s playoff appearance

If you don’t mind getting up before the sun rises, then you just might be the kind of person to join the Bulldog ice hockey club team.

After 17 years on the ice, the school club team is still looking to expand and improve. The application deadline to join the team for the spring 2009 semester is Nov. 1.

The online application is just one of the many ways head coach Marcel Bourdase recruits players to his team. He also sends recruiting packets all over California. His recent efforts have paid off in this year’s larger and younger team in comparison to past years.

“I’m very excited about where we’re at,” Bourdase said of his team of 21 players. “It’s just getting them to understand how much hard work it takes.”

Last year’s players proved that hard work could take the team into the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association (PCHA) playoffs. Unfortunately that’s where the season ended for Bulldog ice hockey with a loss to the Santa Clara Broncos in March.

“It was all heart,” Bourdase said of making it to the PCHA playoffs, mainly because there were only 11 players on the team.

Unfazed by shortage of players

Of those 11 players, eight returned this season and are joined by 13 new players. Historically, the team has had a shortage of players. Even with this season’s 21 players, 17 of which are eligible to play, the team is still not complete.

However, this situation hasn’t hampered the team’s attitude or goals for the season. Bourdase places this year’s team first in the northern division of the PCHA ahead of Santa Clara, Sacramento State and UC Davis. Overall, Bourdase sees Bulldog ice hockey as one of the top three teams in the league, which also includes Northern Arizona, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine, UC San Diego and College of the Canyons.

Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian

In the team’s first two games against Northern Arizona, the Bulldogs lost 1-6 and 2-5. This was a promising start of the season for the young team since Northern Arizona is a leader in the PCHA and placed sixth the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Nationals last year.

“I see us doing pretty well this year,” right wing Russell Koch said. “We lost to one of the best teams and we didn’t lose by that much.”

The Bulldogs have improved since their loss to Northern Arizona with wins against UC Davis and Sacramento State last week, and will face Sacramento State again on Friday. For goalie Joe Ricupero, UC Davis and Sacramento State are two of the Bulldogs’ biggest opponents.

“When I came out here they were originally the only two teams we could compete with,” Ricupero, a third-year player, said.

Regional playoffs season goal

Since its start, Bulldog ice hockey has improved in the PCHA and even expanded its horizons in 2002 when it joined the ACHA, a nationally recognized league.

The Bulldogs play many of their PCHA opponents in the ACHA, yet the ACHA leads to nationals. The team made it to the ACHA National Tournament in the 2004-05 season, eventually placing sixth out of 120 teams.

Bourdase’s goal for this season is to make it to the ACHA regionals, meaning the young team will have to place anywhere between third and 10th in the ACHA Pacific Region. A win at regionals leads to another visit to nationals.

“It’s a big improvement this year,” Ricupero said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys with some good hockey background.”

Members bear bulk of sport’s cost

However, it might not be the results of the team’s games that will deter them from reaching regionals. Instead, it might be the cost.

Because they are a club team, they do not receive funding from the university other than the $2,000 that any club is eligible for from Associated Students, Inc. Yet that $2,000 doesn’t even cover one player for one season. Players pay around $2,500 for themselves each season.

In addition to those costs, the team has to pay for the ice they play on and the bus they ride in to their away games, among other expenses.

The team does offer sponsor packages ranging in price from $100 to $3,000 in hopes of alleviating some of the financial burdens the players take on in order to play a game they love.

“They make a lot of sacrifices that as fans and students, it’s something you can really get behind,” Bourdase said.

Success a team effort

While Bourdase applauds his players for their work and effort, team captain Phillip Matson credits the program’s success to its coach of two years. Bourdase is the third head coach of Bulldog ice hockey, and also played for four years on the team.

“This is a really good and organized program, and Marcel works really hard to keep it that way,” Matson, a second-year player, said.

Matson is just one of the many players who sets his alarm early for the Tuesday and Thursday 6 a.m.
practices, which Matson thinks is the hardest thing about joining the team. Yet all the players seem to agree that it’s the friendships made that make the early practices and high expenses worth the challenge.

“It’s the time of my life,” Matthew Young said, as his teammates laughed at his remark. “No seriously, if you want to come out here and get a good education and play some competitive hockey, you’ll have a great time here.”

The Bulldogs take on Sacramento State on Oct. 24 and UC Irvine on Oct. 25 at the Gateway Ice Center.

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