When it comes to the recruiting process for Weber State men’s ice hockey, no two stories are the same. Whether the players are coming from a juniors team or straight out of high school, they have a story of how they ended up representing the Wildcats every weekend.
WSU has players from all over the U.S. and some parts of Canada, including freshman defenseman Kody Goodwin from Hyrum, Utah, freshmen center Jakob Besnilian and defenseman Ryan Brown, who are both from California.
Coming into their first year of collegiate club hockey after playing in junior leagues throughout Northern America, these players are finding their way while balancing school, athletics and a social life.
So far for the 2019 season, there is a total of 37 points between the three. Hockey players tally points from assists and goals.
“Junior hockey is different,” Besnilian said. “In total, with playoffs I played over 75 games in one season.”
WSU hockey players make the adjustment to club hockey, averaging just 35 games in their season but with the added demands of 12 credit hours for classes.
“You’re used to waking up and going to the rink and then hanging out with the boys,” Brown said. “Now, balancing school and different schedules, it’s definitely harder to get out with them.”
With the WSU ice hockey team being a club sport, players aren’t eligible for athletic scholarships and pay fees to play hockey for the season on top of that. It can sometimes be hard to understand how players find themselves coming back to play each year.
“It’s a passion; I grew up playing it,” Goodwin said. “I love the sport; it’s the main reason I’ve come to school.”
Heavily influenced by their friends and family, playing hockey came naturally to all three players. Besnilian started his career with roller hockey and then moved to ice hockey. By the time he was 18, he had made his way into Canada for juniors, playing in Swan River, Manitoba before linking with WSU’s coaches and making his way back to the states.
Goodwin began his career playing Triple A hockey for the West Coast Renegades, eventually moving to Billings, Montana, for his first chance at juniors before continuing his venture into Colorado, where he played in Breckenridge, and then finishing his final year in Steamboat.
During his time in Billings, Goodwin met Brown.
“I started out with youth hockey in Roseville, CA,” Brown said. “I moved up to Billings, Montana, and then Seattle, Washington before moving Steamboat, Colorado.”
It wasn’t a hard decision for Brown and Goodwin to come play for WSU. Influenced by location, their family ties and tuition, they have now been roommates for three years.
Practicing three days a week at the ice sheet, time is more flexible for school and finding time to fit homework in with their weekends on the road. There’s a bond shared between the team. Besnilian explained that he sees his teammates more as 25 good friends.
Each weekend full of games comes along with pre-game rituals. Besnilian often finds himself eating the same breakfast, taking a nap, stretching and then heading to the rink. Meanwhile, Brown started a ritual this year by hyping up his teammates while yelling throughout the locker room before games.
Looking past college, all three agree that moving on to a higher level is the ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of pro leagues in Europe,” Besnilian said. “We can start out lower and eventually move our way up, ultimately getting an education first.”
For now, these young players are enjoying their new adventure, hanging out with their friends, going to class and playing hockey.
“I’m enjoying it all, but for now my favorite part is definitely the parties,” Goodwin said.