This year in particular is a very exciting time if you are a Sooner/Hockey fan. We really should make Sophomore Goaltender Colin Fernandes words this years theme: “It’s ours to lose”.
This 2012-2013 season marks the 10th season of ACHA Sooner hockey. Nine of those years at the Division I level, their first year in the league starting at Division II. It took five years of planning and talks to even get the puck rolling for a Sooner hockey team. The Sooners enjoyed a quick and early success on the ice, making the ACHA Nationals tournament in their third year. This past season was the 7th consecutive trip. They may have not yet won the coveted Murdoch Cup, but everyone in and around the ACHA, not to mention wearing a crimson and cream jersey, fully expect this year to be THE year. Especially after such a disappointing, very hotly contested and controversial loss to Penn St. The Sooners will face Penn St. at the end of the regular season this year, but since Penn has moved up into the NCAA, OU will not have to worry about being cheated of a national title again.
( and yes, there will be a cream and crimson jersey this year that will be revealed on ice in October)
This Anniversary season has 15 returning members from last years squad. Eight of those returning will be seniors, the last chance to play at a high level for most. The Sooners only lost 3 seniors at the end of last season. 15 remaining newcomers will fill out the rest of the squad. The recruiting department struck hockey gold this season, signing several Championship players.
Two players hitting the ice with the Sooners this year come from the Texas Tornado junior team, who won the NAHL Championship this past season. Jordan Greenberg and Mico Solorzano will join Troy Puente, Augie Hoffmann, Joe Adams, Alex Jacobs and Stephen Behm who all are Tornado Alumni. If you haven’t noticed yet, these Texas and Oklahoma teams are very close to each other and have had a very long standing partnership with interchanging players AND coaches. The Sooners will travel to Frisco,Tx to play the Tornado in two exhibition games on Sept. 7th and 8th.
Oklahoma has also put the 2012 USA Hockey championship winning goalie from the OKC Youth hockey team, the Oil Kings, on the roster, Austin Schmidt.
Last years senior Captain Blake Martin:
“This year, every player that’s come in, has actually played at a high level. The years past, we had kids that played midget A, they played house hockey, or hadn’t played for 4 yrs & just decided to come here. Those aren’t the kids that you need to win a championship.
“They aren’t used to the structure so to speak?”
Yea. But then to, our coaches would never do any recruiting, they would rely on the players to bring in friends, that might wanna play. Since Pete & Miller got hired, they’ve actually taken the time. Chris (Perry) and Andrew (Magerkurth) have devoted a lot of time, going on recruiting trips. That’s why they’ve got 12 new guys in, who can all play hockey.”
Since the opening season for OU hockey in 2002-2003, the Sooners have had five different Head Coaches. The current Head Coach, Peter Arvanitis, will be starting his second year on the record.
The very first Sooner HC and developer of the OU Hockey program was Craig McAlister (2003-2006) where he compiled a record of 48-17-4. Craig went on to build another program and become the first Head Coach at the University of Central Oklahoma (52-43-9) where he remains today.
In, 2009, the ACHA honored Craig with the Coach of the Year award, shortly after UCO received the highest ranking achieved by a collegiate hockey team from the state of Oklahoma. One other finalist that year was Tom Murphy of the University of Oklahoma.
After McAlister left for UCO, Larry Donovan (2006-2008) would take over and go on to be the winningest coach in Sooner hockey history to date with a 74-22-1 record.
Larry would leave the Head Coach position to help his son, Matt Donovan, and his budding professional hockey career, but remains as a general manager for the Sooners.
With the stepping down of Donovan, Asst. Coach Tom Murphy (2008-2010) would take over.
Murphy won the NAHL Championships with the Texas Tornado in 2004 through 2006, again in 2012. Murphy would leave OU to go back to Texas after amassing a 54-14-10 record.
Mark Berge(2010-2011) would take over for Murphy and remain in the postion only for a year, posting a 29-19-1 record. Berge played and was an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Blazers 1992-1997.
Mark would leave the team to spend more time with his family, handing over the reins to Peter Arvanitis (26-13-2), another Blazers alumni, where he was a annual fan favorite.
Peter played with the CHL Blazers for eight seasons, including the 2000-2001 Championship team. While still learning the difference between professional and student athletes, Peter has won the respect of his players, who see him working hard to be the good well-rounded coach they need.
While it appears the OU hockey team was truly treated as just another club team, something to do for fun, last year showed a serious turning point. This season looks to be even more promising. A hungry coach, a support system in place that wants to win and players that won’t quit and are ready to go all the way.
By focusing on better opponents and more tournaments around the states, the Sooners look to show off their newly found talent and strength on the ice. No more traveling to places like Liberty, who preach the “word” while breaking all the ACHA rules to fight. Hopefully, not having to deal with any more refs who actually allow such things in the first place, much less the ones who are forced to change calls and make up calls at the behest of league commissioners. OU is on the road to making a true name for themselves as a classy, strong contender team. They don’t need the shenanigans.
They will start with a defensive line that already has a nickname. Watch for The Crash Line to hit the ice; Mico Solorzano, Chad Liley, Tony Cullen have already impressed the coaches.
Asst. General Manager Chris Perry:
“Where before, the defensive depth might have extended only into the second line, this year, all 4 lines are really stacked and strong. This is the strongest & most talented team that OU will have put on the ice. The offense even has more than just a couple goal scorers and is deep with young kids who are consistently working hard and improving.”
Putting the heartbreak of last years loss to Penn St., the Sooners are ready and committed to making this year their year. Already it shows, a renewed dedication and excitement in the locker room and on the ice.
No excuses, come out and support some local hockey. Home opener is Friday Sept. 21st at 7:30. The OU hockey team is also looking into forming a Booster club for the 2012-13 season. If you are interested, please contact Faculty Advisor, Dr. Scott Hammerstedt, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy 10 years of hockey, boys!