After three unsuccessful seasons, Weber State University’s club hockey team has earned a trip to the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s national tournament.
“I can’t really describe the feeling,” said Braxton Green, the senior team captain. “It hasn’t really set in yet, and I don’t think it will set in until I get on the bus to go there. I feel like I have a pep in my step.”
Dax Hobbs, a left wing and center for the team, said the younger team members wanted to get to nationals for the seniors on the team.
“It’s awesome, especially to get the vets to nationals,” Hobbs said. “The coolest part is just seeing seniors go for the first time.”
This is head coach Joe Pfleegor’s eighth trip to the national tournament, but this particular trip is a little different.
“This team is special for the simple fact that they’ve never been there,” Pfleegor said. “The majority of players haven’t been to nationals before.”
Pfleegor said he set a goal at the beginning of the year to get the team to nationals.
“My goal was to get them all to nationals so they could see what it feels like,” he said. “It’s something you can’t explain to players. It’s something they have to live.”
The national tournament is a different level of competition for the Wildcats, and the team is looking forward to the challenge.
“Every game you play at nationals is against a good team,” Hobbs said. “We won’t face teams like Boise State and BYU, where we just roll over them, where it’s an easy game for us. Every game we play and team we face is going to be really tough.”
Pfleegor said he thinks the team is ready for the next level of competition.
“We are peaking at the right time,” Pfleegor said. “Those boys are playing at their best. We are going to have everyone back. Everyone is healthy, and I really believe we have a good opportunity to go all the way. I think the boys believe in that.”
The team will be digging deep and working hard in the next few weeks of practice.
“We just want to practice harder and do some team activities so we stay in shape and stay together,” Hobbs said.
Green said the players will be working on the little things and focusing on doing those things they know they have to do.
“Our power play has got to be on,” Green said. “It was all right at regionals, but we have to be on that. We know what we have to do. We just have to do it.”
Pfleegor said one thing that has helped the team get to nationals and that he is most proud of is the way the team has come together as a family.
“They’ve came together, the chemistry, supporting each other,” he said. “They’re a family. That’s hard to do, and when it does, special things will happen. That’s what happened this year.”
The team played in the ACHA Western Regionals last week, beating the University of Denver 8-3 and the University of Utah 5-3. Beating in-state rival UU made the victory leading to nationals sweeter, according to Hobbs.
“When we found out we had to play Utah, it was kind of a bittersweet moment,” Hobbs said. “We have lost to Utah before, but it was that much sweeter when we beat them at their home rink.”
Green said the win against the Utes was a team effort.
“It was just unreal how the team rallied together and got that win,” Green said.
WSU finished the regular season in fourth place in the Western Division with a 26-10-2-1 record after a grueling 39-game season that dealt the Wildcats their fair share of trials through injuries and academic ineligibility.
The national tournament will be held in St. Louis, Mo., March 15-19.