Buffs look forward to tougher competition

By Caryn Maconi on November 17, 2012

Published in the Colorado v. Washington home football game program 

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The CU men’s club hockey team is taking a step up next season.

The Buffs, currently playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II, recently announced that they will be moving to ACHA Division I for the 2012-13 season. The ACHA Division I is the most competitive conference for collegiate club hockey teams, just one step below NCAA varsity status.

The competition will be tougher, the pace of the game will be faster, and the road travel will be longer. Head coach Shawn Sullivan said the Buffs may experience some growing pains along the way, but that the transition will be positive in the long run.

“ACHA is just one step down from the show as far as college hockey goes,” Sullivan said. “Do I think that the program is ready for the move? Yes. Do I think that we’re going to be incredibly competitive right away? Maybe not. We just want to make sure the university is well-represented, that’s our number on priority.”

Reilly O’Brien outskates the CSU defense during the 3rd annual Rocky Mountain Showdown. The Buffs were unable to complete a come-from-behind win and fell to the Rams for the second consecutive year. (CU Independent/Andrew Kaczmarek)

Associate head coach Jonathan Pfeiff said taking on bigger and better teams will be a tough adjustment for next year’s Buffs.

“I think the biggest challenge for the first year is just kind of getting a feel for the league,” Pfeiff said. “We’ve played a few teams that are in the division above us, but just having that consistency to be up there playing the likes of Oklahoma, playing on the road more often is going to be part of it.”

Also making the move to Division I next season is in-state rival Colorado State University. Sullivan said that CSU’s decision to move up a league was one of the biggest reasons that CU followed suit. The final decision was made in partnership with CSU and was arranged on CU’s end by Sullivan, Pfeiff and club sports director Kristopher Schoech.

“They needed us in this league, we needed them, and it just seemed like a good time for both of us to move,” Sullivan said. “I think the biggest thing in partnering with CSU is that we’re giving Division I a nice feeder out of the west.”

Pfeiff said one of the biggest focuses for the team in Division I will be developing a more established fan base. The upcoming league change coincides with a brand-new ice rink being built as part of CU’s “Buff Up The Rec” project. The team hopes the new facility will attract both new recruits and spectators into the program.

“It’s kind of a twofold thing we’ve got going for us right now,” Pfeiff said. “Building the new rink is going to help us as much as the prestige of being in that league.”

In the upcoming year, Pfeiff said he hopes to spread the word about CU hockey as much as possible.

“The push from the organizational standpoint is that we’re going to try and do as much as we can to really help build our brand and get a lot of attention towards the team,” Pfeiff said. “We’re just trying to get as much ready for next season as we can in terms of getting out name out there, attracting more players and trying to be more visible in the Boulder communities.”

Senior team captain Sam Kinney said he is looking forward to the increased game attendance that the league change and new facility promise to bring.

“I know it’s tough right now, there’s not much of a place to come watch us play,” Kinney said. “But by next year, absolutely, we want to be able to fill that place up. We want [CU hockey] to become a bigger tradition here.”

Before the Buffs can fully set their sights on next season, though, they have some work to do in the coming months. The Buffs fell to CSU on two separate occasions earlier this season, but they hope to get redemption against their future DI rivals on Feb. 1 and Feb. 12.

The next home game for the Buffs is set for Nov. 19 against Utah State University at the CU Rec Center, and the season continues through mid-February.

The Buffs also have a JV team currently competing in ACHA Division III and a women’s team competing in ACHA Division I.

For more information on the CU men’s club hockey team, visit www.cubuffshockey.org.

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