As you read this column, the CSU hockey team is thousands of miles away in the Big Apple. Right now, they’re gearing up for the first game of the ACHA National Tournament against the University of Indiana, representing their team, their school and their state. After a season of close games and blowouts, highs and lows, the team earned itself a No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and berth in the tourney.
But this summarization does not accurately represent the parody of the Rams’ season. It actually can be broken up into two seasons: the fall semester, in which the team barely kept its head above water; and the spring semester, when the Rams defeated every opponent.
Back in September, the team began its season with three straight losses and continued to struggle with a 2-5 record through mid-October. Luckily for the Rams, they played the lowly University of Northern Colorado four times in the fall, and, as they should have, defeated them four times. Those wins accounted for 40 percent of the team’s victories during the semester. The Rams basically beat the teams they should have, but could not defeat the powerhouses of the conference: University of Colorado, Utah State University and University of Utah.
This made my job more difficult; if you’ve never been a sports reporter, let me tell you it’s much more enjoyable when the team you’re covering is winning. At one point in the semester, after a series of tough road losses in Utah, the players refused to speak to my editor and thus got no coverage in the Collegian. When the dust settled on the fall semester, the Rams were 10-8-1 – not bad, but not good enough to get them into the tournament.
The two halves of the season were like night and day.
If that fall semester was the proverbial night for the team – the spring semester was the day, and what a beautiful day it was.
The team’s success did not begin with a big win or anything on the ice. The Rams’ fortunes shifted when they acquired the services of two new players: junior forward Josh Bowers and senior goalie Aaron Gaddis. Bowers, who transferred from Ferris State, joined his brother Jason on a line and provided the team with a much-needed offensive spark. Gaddis, who had played for the Rams a few seasons before, rejoined the team and gave the solid defensive unit a little more security between the pipes.
With these additions, the Rams began the spring semester with a huge upset over then-No. 1 Utah State, a team CSU had lost to in the first game of the season. The win seemed to completely transform the team. The players skated with a new confidence and swagger that was not there in the first half of the year. They played to their strengths, using their speed and defense to create goal-scoring opportunities. The Rams found themselves riding a wave – a huge one.
It washed over anything and everything, as the Rams defeated the top three teams in the conference and completely obliterated unworthy opponents who were unfortunate enough to have been scheduled in the Rams’ second half of the season.
And the wave didn’t break early.
The Rams rode it all the way to New York City.