If a foreigner visited UB for one winter day, they would probably assume we field a pretty good hockey team.
Sadly to say, our university does not have a DI-level varsity hockey program ever since it was dropped in 1988. Prior to 1988, Buffalo had sponsored a varsity hockey team at NCAA levels 1 and 3.
Hockey lovers, however, weren't ready to throw away their passion. Instead, they fielded a team and joined the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which provides highly competitive collegiate hockey to universities that can't or won't support an official NCAA hockey program. There are seven major conferences in the ACHA, and Buffalo is in the Eastern collegiate hockey league.
The conference consists of Canisius College, Mercyhurst College, Niagara University, University of Rochester, Suny Canton and RIT. In the past two seasons, Canton has been Buffalo's biggest competition in conference play. The winner of the conference gets an automatic bid to nationals at the end of the season.
A majority of the hockey team is made up of players from nearby areas of the Buffalo/ WNY area – out of 28 members on the hockey team, 17 of the players are from the Buffalo area showing that Buffalo has a tremendous support for hockey in the area.
"Most of the kids grew up playing here for travel teams and high schools," said senior captain Andrew Blocho.
The hockey team is considered a club athletic program by the university, meaning that scholarships aren't available and funding is purely left on the shoulders of the team. These student athletes don't have all of the extra amenities that the varsity programs have at Buffalo, lacking tutoring and sponsorships.
"We've got five or six coaches that spend a lot of time helping the team out," Blocho said. "Every single one of the coaches volunteer all of their time. We don't have a single person that we pay; everything is pro bono."
The Bulls have been on the rise slowly, as the program becomes better and better every year. In the two-year span during the '07-'08, and the '08-'09 seasons, the Bulls had a total record of 12-38, which is not a very good record by any means. Last season, the team turned the program around and finished off the season ranked 24th in the nation with a record of 19-11.
Buffalo started off the 2010-2011 season with a bang, going 11-1 in the first twelve games while being ranked 17th in the nation. The Bulls are on top of the ACHA currently with a 4-0 record in conference, and a 14-5-1 record overall.
Cheektowaga native, sophomore Chris Kendall is leading the team with 28 (11 g) points, while fellow sophomores Scott Mack leads the team with 13 goals with Matt Ganci right behind with 12 goals of his own.
Buffalo has a very good chance of making the playoffs with two different scenarios: winning the conference out right, or being ranked in the top 25 in the nation to receive an automatic bid. Buffalo's core is very young with two senior goalies between the pipes to back up the underclassman.
"I think we are going to go to nationals." Blocho said, "Our only other competition we have in conference is Niagara, whom we have already beaten this year."
Buffalo has seven more home games in the months of January and February for the remainder of its season. Every home game is played either Friday, Saturday or Sunday at the Northtown Center at Amherst, which is located across the street from Alumni Arena. All team information is listed on www.ubhockey.com.