'Ice Hawks' play for the love of the game
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This weekend Iowa sports fans have plenty of opportunity to cheer on the black and gold—but there’s only one group you’ll find playing on ice.
The University of Iowa Hockey Club, which boasts two teams and more than 40 members, will be closing out its 2013-2014 season with a pair of home games versus St. Mary’s University of Minnesota this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 7 and 8, at the Coral Ridge Ice Arena.
Unlike Iowa’s NCAA-sanctioned athletics teams, Iowa Hockey is part of the Division II Club Mid-America Collegiate Hockey Association. They compete against several Midwest teams including natural rivals Illinois and Missouri, and have traveled as far as Florida to compete against the University of Miami club.
“It’s a lot, especially on the weekends,” says senior captain Joey Wheeler. “There is so much time to catch up on school work, homework, and studying on the weekends, but we’re sometimes consumed for the entire three days.” The senior majoring in business studies finds, like all UI athletes, that the commitment of sports demands academic focus. “You've really got to buckle down during the week when you can.”
Although ice hockey isn’t part of Iowa’s official athletics programs, the group is encouraged by growing local interest in the sport. “Even though we are just club, we hope this program can keep moving forward,” Wheeler says. “Hopefully 10-15 years in the future we’ll be Division I.” Half of the 12 Big Ten schools currently have NCAA Division I hockey programs, with Penn State being the latest to make the jump in 2012.
In the meantime, the club team still enjoys being Hawkeyes. “It means something to us. We all tap our logo every time we walk out of the locker room,” says Iowa City native Matan Nadler. “We still take pride in being Hawkeyes. We want to win for our school just as much as anyone else does.”
After a sluggish 0-4 start to the season, the Division II team steadily improved to a record of 14-12 (9-5) heading into their last matchup of the regular season, this Friday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 8 at 4:45 p.m. at the Coral Ridge Ice Arena in Coralville. Admission is free.
For more information visit the Hawkeye Hockey website.