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The men's club hockey team is not one you will see playing in the Frozen Four, nor will you see any of the players making ESPN's Top Ten plays anytime soon.
The names Matthew Ganci, Craig Meaney and Ben "Nitro" Lantz may never register in the NCAA hockey record books.
But if you watched the fans who packed the stands of the Northtown Center on Saturday and Sunday to watch the Bulls hoist the NECHL Playoff championship trophy, you saw the impact these players have on UB. The team's following is astonishing.
There was constant pounding on the glass whenever a favorite player or friend came near the home stands. The famous "goal dance" was frequently on display in the stands. Both factors were part of the family-like atmosphere.
I have always wondered why UB didn't have a hockey team. It seemed ridiculous that a university in one of the biggest hockey towns had not funded a program since 1988. It's been commonly talked about in the Buffalo community: the future of a hockey program at the UB.
Former UB athletic director and current UConn AD Warde Manuel had considered adding a Division I program, but the cost of ice time, equipment, scholarships and conference realignment seemed to be the biggest concerns.
Multiple rumors circulated that Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and UB alum, could be linked to funding the program. Jacobs has held multiple positions of power, including director, of the UB Foundation. His company, Delaware North Companies, is stationed in Buffalo.
He donated $10 million to the university in 2008, but that was for the research of clinical collaboration on the causes, treatment and prevention of heart and vascular diseases.
Amongst all the madness and buzz, the men's club ice hockey team kept its composure.
Though the squad struggled a bit last season, this season, the Bulls ranked No. 21 in the country and No. 2 in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League (NECHL) in the regular season, ultimately outlasting Niagara in the championship game.
The Bulls finished with a record of 26-4 overall and had two players, Ganci and senior Chris Covel, score 20 or more goals.
The impressive season brought me to a consensus: While we wait for a benefactor to jump on board and help fund a Division I program, or we make cuts to the athletic budget in favor of the sport, or UB never funds a program, I am quite all right with the club team that we have.
A club team of athletes who share my passion and love for hockey makes it a heck of a lot easier to root for them.
After every game, win or lose, fans are able to meet the team.
For now, I will be in full support of the club team and everything it has done for hockey fans who hope this season has a ripple effect that transforms into something big.
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