By ASHLEY OWENS
Entering its 20th year, Eastern’s club hockey team is looking forward to an exciting and improved 2014-2015 season, if not for the joy of the game, then for the fans.
On any given game night, the team plays in front of 100 to 300 fans, sometimes up to 500. Those numbers equal and even outnumber many of the varsity level sports on campus. The majority of those fans are fire and safety students, who junior and team captain Brian O’Loughlin said is a huge support system for the team.
Michael Fogg, graduate student and assistant coach, said the best part is knowing that fans are dedicated enough to drive up to 30 minutes away just to attend games.
“It’s literally the fans that are driving us to play harder because they are non-stop, all the time,” Fogg said.
Fogg added the team is hoping to improve in the same way as last season, where Eastern went from a 0-18 record to improve to winning five games.
“I would say last year we saw the wheels turning,” O’Loughlin said. “Like he [Fogg] said, 0-18 to five wins is a pretty big improvement.”
Since the hockey team is a club team it is not sponsored, officially, by Eastern. However, some of its funding does come from organizations on campus, such as Student Government, Student Life and the Recreation Center. Any other funding comes from the players’ pockets.
Traveling goes much like expenses, carpooling is up to the players and by head coach Joel Cormier. Not only is Cormier coaching the hockey team for the second year, he also serves as an assistant professor in exercise and sport science on campus. Cormier is also a three-time provincial champion hockey coach in Canada.
Cormier said he is looking forward to the group of “rookies” recruited for this year. Six new players joined the team this season, and all six are committed to Eastern for four years, paying to play and paying out-of-state tuition.
Four of those freshmen were recruited from the Nashville Jr. Predators’ U-18 Program: Corey Jenks, Cam Angus, Alex Melin and Chase MacNicoll.
Jenks said his favorite part about being on the team so far is the warm welcome the upperclassmen gave the incoming players.
“As soon as we came in they treated us like family,” Jenks said.
The team has not taken the training for this upcoming season lightly. Many of the players have trained off-ice during the summer and as the school year approached the team endured “Hell Week” to prepare for the season.
“Hell Week” is as rough as it sounds. The team meets up at 6 a.m. for training then returns again in the evening for more workouts. Some nights were spent in a strategy session with Cormier. After preseason workouts, all practices and games go down late at night, so classes are rarely missed, if ever.
All of the preseason training has prepared the team for the big names scheduled this season. Some of those big name schools include Tennessee in its home opener, Memphis on Halloween weekend and Marshall to close out the season on senior night. The University of Kentucky would have been a big name to play this season, but Kentucky backed out later after scheduling Eastern.
All home games are at 11:55 p.m. at the Lexington Ice Center. Eastern’s home opener is scheduled for 11:55 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19.
“Fans are going to get a very hard working team who will play for them,” O’Loughlin said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of teams this year, but not ourselves, with some wins.”
For more information on Eastern’s club hockey team visit colonelshockey.com.