The CSU Rams club hockey team has already begun its Spring Break at the 2008 American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II National Championship tournament in Fort Meyers, Fla. Along with enjoying some Florida sun, the team will be playing its most intense hockey of the year.
Pool play starts this morning for the Rams at 8:30 against the Grand Valley State Lakers. There are a total of 16 teams, including four teams from the Central, West, Southeast and Northeast divisions.
Approximately 150 teams from around the nation compete to make it to the tournament.
After getting off an airboat in the Everglades of Florida, leading scorer Tim Stiller said he was excited about the current state of the team going into the Nationals.
“Everyone is healthy, which is the biggest thing,” Stiller said. “I don’t think we’ve had a full team without suspensions since day one. We’re all on the same page and we all know what we need to do to win. I think the team looks the best it has looked all year, so that’s pretty good timing.”
CSU comes in ranked third in the Western division with 23 wins, eight losses, and two ties, while Grand Valley State comes in ranked second in the Central division with 26 wins, five losses and one tie.
The Rams faced the Lakers twice last season and came away with one tie in the regular season and one victory against at Nationals.
Coach Joe Sharrock said that the Central division is known as one the toughest divisions in league.
“They (Grand Valley State) got a great coaching staff and a lot of hockey players to draw from in that area,” Sharrock said. “They’re one of the premier teams in the league.”
CSU has reached the final-four (semi-finals) in each of the last two years. Sharrock said that the West is probably the toughest division this year, but noted that rankings didn’t really matter at Nationals.
“All the rules are out the door, all the expectations are out the window when you step into a National tournament like this,” Sharrock said. “It often just depends on who shows up ready to play.”
According to Stiller, they’re as ready as possible.
“We’ve had one of the best weeks of practices all year,” Stiller said. “In he last couple of week, practices have been really physical, fast pace, just trying to get ready for the tempo out here.”
Pool play begins today with the semi-finals taking place on Saturday.
Games will be broadcasted live on the Internet at http://www.fgcuicehockey.com/nationals_video.html.
Sports reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at email@example.com.