Cool as ice

Racing down the ice, junior center Andrew Greene swiftly passes the puck to fellow junior left wing Curran Eigelberger. Eigelberger handles the puck effortlessly on either side of his stick, beating a defender and launching a shot past the goalie and into the net for a Billiken goal.

Unfortunately, most students did not see this display. Since hockey is a club sport, their games are played nine miles away at Webster Groves Ice Rink. This inconvenience isn’t the only pitfall of being a club sport.

“As a club sport, we have to pay to finance the team. Overall, it doesn’t have a big effect on the team as we all show up and work our tails off even if we don’t have the perks of D-I athletes,” Greene said. Despite being a club team and having to fund many of their own expenditures, the club hockey team has still seen success on the ice since their founding in 1992. Last year, the team finished with a National Championship Tournament berth.

“Some people give club sports a certain stigma, like we are not the same. In a way, we aren’t, but anyone who doubts us because we are club needs to come check us out,” Eigelberger said.

Even with challenges and skeptics, the hockey team still managed to recruit one of their largest freshman classes in history, adding 12 new freshmen this year.

“Adding that to the already-solid core of returning players, I truly feel like this team has the potential to achieve some special things,” Eigelberger said.

Last year, the team hosted and participated in the National Championship Tournament, where SLU went 1-2 in pool play, causing them to fall short of a semi-final appearance. Despite last year’s outcome, the team has lofty goals for this year and plans to pick up where they left off.

“Our goals for this season are to win our league [the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association], qualify for regionals and make it back to the national tournament. We want to continue to grow SLU hockey around campus,” Eigelberger said.

So far this season, the team boasts a record of 11-3 and has 90 goals for, with only 45 against, as of press time. SLU is also ranked 10th in the Central Division of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), as of press time. Other teams ranked in the top t10 include cross-town rival Lindenwood, Michigan State, DePaul and Missouri State.

“This is the most talented team we’ve had in a few years, so it’d be great to get a bit of recognition and see some fans come out to the games. We always enjoy playing in front of a bigger crowd,” Greene said.

Recent notable victories have come against Iowa with a final score of 8-7, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville with a final score of 8-3 and, most recently, ninth-ranked Missouri State, who the Billikens defeated 5-4 in overtime.

“Our biggest rival is SIUE due to the proximity of the schools. Mizzou, [Missouri] State, and Lindenwood are also games we circle on the schedule,” Greene said.

Aside from their pregame skate, which takes place at 1 p.m. on Fridays, the hockey team has other rituals that they participate in prior to each game.

“We always listen to pump-up music to get in the zone and we always have to get dressed the same way.  Hockey players usually have a specific pregame routine each player sticks to,” Eigelberger said. Another unique aspect of the hockey team is that most of the players hail from around St. Louis, which oftentimes allows them to workout together during the off-season.

“For me the best part about the team is that most of the players are from the St. Louis area — just the familiarity with the guys as well as being able to get together often in the summers helps build camaraderie in the locker room,” Greene said. Eigelberger also cites his teammates as one of his favorite parts of playing hockey for SLU.

“There would be no team without them and nothing would be possible.  Being able to meet so many people while playing the sport and going to a school you love; you can’t beat it,” Eigelberger said. With games beginning at the end of September and regionals running through the last week of February, there are many opportuni ties to see the Billikens in action this season. The team often offers free buses to notable home games, departing from The Shack. For those who can’t attend games, the team offers other ways to follow along, such as game day locker room pictures,  as well as live tweeting during matches. One of the biggest games left this season is the Missouri College Hockey Showdown, where SLU will face rival Mizzou. The game will be held on Dec. 7 at Family Arena in St. Charles. Another upcoming game is this Friday, Nov. 15, against No. 2 Lindenwood. A fan bus will be provided.

“We would love to see more students at our games,” Eigelberger said. “Everyone has played on top teams around the country on this team and have played hockey their whole lives.  This year already we are one of the top teams in the region.  This is a special team and we would like some better recognition around campus and to gain some better fan support.”