The past four years have been a great time to watch and get in tune with the Oklahoma Sooner hockey program. Watching the seniors play their last game on home ice is always an emotional moment, even more so than a loss in the Championship Tourney. At least that loss comes from the hands of a stronger team (well, usually). Either way, the boys transition to men, onto men who shed a tear with their teammates. Just another reason to fall in love with this “game”.
Eight Seniors played their last game at Blazers Ice Center Saturday night. Getting the 12-1 over their in-state rival UCO was a huge boost for moral as they all head to their last trip to the ACHA Nationals. If they stay focused and work together as well as they did this weekend, Chicago will have some great hockey to watch.
Defenseman and Team Captain Augie Hoffmann (Lake Forest, IL), Defenseman Troy Puente (Thousand Oaks, CA); Forwards Justin Giles (Jenks, OK), Chad Hudson (Coppell, TX), Shane Vorndran (Fort Wayne, IN), Jon Schanke (Wallingford, CT), Nic Power (Bixby, OK) and Forward/Defenseman Craig Martin (Tulsa, OK) all took part in an on ice ceremony honoring their play and team unity during intermission of the last home game.
Chad Hudson (#25) led the group of seniors in points, having 62 goals in his four years in a Sooner jersey.
What is your next move? Are you staying at OU for a degree, plans to stay in hockey somewhere else?
My next move is to stay here at OU actually. I came in during Christmas break and started my career in the spring so I have some more schooling to finish up. I am getting my degree here at OU then seeing where the world takes me.
What would be a favorite moment/s playing at OU?
This is a tough one. I’d say just developing all the relationships over the years that are going to last for a lifetime. These guys are my brothers and there’s no bonds like the ones developed in hockey. I would also say that seeing the popularity among campus grow over the years has been pretty cool. My first year no one had any clue who we were or that we had a team, but this year I’ve seen people wearing OU hockey shirts that I’ve never seen before. That part is pretty cool.
Is there anything in particular that you will miss about the school/team?
I’ll definitely miss the locker room. Plain and simple. The bus trips (except the incredibly long ones) are another thing. They are just time with your best friends that you will always remember. As for school I’m still going to be here so I can’t miss that! But I’ll definitely miss the jokes, chirps and all that goes on in the locker room and on bus trips.
Are you taking any special preparations for the ACHA tourney, have any superstitions?
Not anything out of the ordinary. I have my own little routine, but it’s nothing too crazy or superstitious. I just know that with the team we have now we just need to all come to play and no one can stop us.
Is is correct that Augie (Hoffman) and you played together at wichita falls?
Haha. This is a story. Augie and I played together in Wichita Falls, but it’s much more complex than that. When I was 17 I met Augie because I was just back from shoulder surgery and skating with the Texas Tornado, with whom he played for. Then we were set to play there the following year, but they folded. We both ended up in St. Louis to play for the Bandits. We played in STL for a little while together, then I got traded to Wichita Falls. About 10 minutes after I found out I was traded I saw Augie walk out of the office with a similar facial expression I had. I asked him “You too?” and he replied “Yep” I said “Where?” and he said “Wichy, you?” I said “Wichy.” And now here we are at OU only coming 6 months apart from each other. We have a joke that Augie and I are a “package deal”
Team captain August Hoffman (#5) may not have the points of his fellow seniors, nevertheless, he is the leader of the team. His big smile enchants the fans while his big presence on the ice lets the opposing team know what is up.
What is your next move? Staying at OU for a degree, plans to stay in hockey somewhere else?
I will be graduating this may and headed back to chicago for work. Unfortunately my body is pretty beat up so I’m on track to get my 4th knee surgery. I’ve been playing with a broken knee since our weekend up in Michigan in January. Just going to play wherever I can with friends and family back home.
What would be a favorite moment/s playing at OU?
My favorite moment is coming up in about 3 1/2 weeks when we win nationals but over the past few years its been incredible to just be with my team all the time. These guys have not only been teammates but part of my family. I’ve been blessed to have some of my best friends come and go over these past 4 years. The hockey has been great but it’ll be perfect when we raise the cup.
Is there anything in particular that you will miss about the school/team??
Coming from the north, i really never knew what to expect when i came here but I love oklahoma. I received a world class education while playing hockey, theres not much more I could ask for. I’ll miss being with my teammates at the rink everyday, hanging out in the locker room or on the bus. The highs and lows of a hockey season pale in comparison to the overall experience i’ve had here.
Are you taking any special preps for the tourney (superstitions)?
I think what i’ll be taking into nationals is my experience. I’ve done things differently in the past but I think now that I look at it I just need to do what has worked for me. Just prepare mentally and help my teammates focus on the task at hand. We are an unstoppable force coming into this years tournament and the only reason we wouldn’t win is because we would beat ourselves.
How great was it to be a part of the World University Games?
The WUG were incredible. undoubtedly the best experience of my life. It did effect my eligibility at OU for a semester but to don the red white and blue and play against other countries was an honor. Its was almost as if the USA jersey gave me superpowers. The experience was amazing. To walk out in the opening ceremony to more people than a NFL game was wild. It was a smaller version of the olympics and I wish I could do it again. I fully recommend it to my teammates who have considered it.
How did it feel taking over the captain position this year?
Obviously it was an honor to be named the Captain. Looking at the guys who wore the C before me, I had some big shoes to fill. This was a difficult year in some respects just because of the number of new guys we had coming in but I think with the help of my fellow captains, we really made this group a tight one, hell bent on winning a championship. We get a bum wrap from the league and from other teams because we have more losses than most of the teams in the top 5 but thats only because every game we play is against an elite level team. Most of the teams in our league play half of their games against schools with no business of being on the same ice as them. Leading a team against top opponents every game of the year is no easy task but with my support and the rest of our guys buying in, I think there is nobody that can stop us from winning it all this year.
The sixth ranked Sooners have two more regular season games to play, against Penn State, who are now in the NCAA after leaving the ACHA at the beginning of this season. On Wednesday, the ACHA will announce the first round schedule for the Championship tournament. After a whirlwind 10 year anniversary season, there will not be a better way to end it than to bring that Cup home and prove all the doubters wrong.