Hockey Club overcoming challenges

Goaltender Tim Kesner makes a save for the Hornets at Skate Town
in Roseville.


Goaltender Tim Kesner makes a save for the Hornets at Skate Town in Roseville.

Daniel Morales

After finding its new home at Vacaville Ice Sports, the Sacramento State Hockey Club is looking to bring home a championship after a season full of challenges.

New team president and captain Brian Cowell said the team expects to win its division again this year and are hope to go to regionals.

“We’re looking pretty good right now,” Cowell said. “We got some improved talent this year.”

The Hornets play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association – Division III, and play in the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association’s North Division, which has five teams. The teams are Sac State, UC Davis, Fresno State University, San Jose State University and Santa Clara University. They are the defending PCHA North Division Champions, but still had some team problems along the way last season.

“We had a rough season last year with injuries and some logistics problems that put our season in jeopardy,” said Matt Grindstaff, vice president of the Sac State Hockey Club. “While we can’t prevent injuries, our new team of officers are dedicated to running the team efficiently and effectively.”

The Hornets started the new season against Santa Rosa Junior College on Friday. After a tough loss against Santa Rosa Junior College on Friday, the Hornets bounced back to defeat Fresno State 6-0 on Saturday. Cowell bagged a hat-trick, while Wes Montserrat, Tyler Pressley and Grindstaff were the other three scorers.

Cowell said the team responded well in its home opener after losing to the Bear Cubs the day before.

“I felt that we had a solid recovery from the hard-fought loss to Santa Rosa,” Cowell said.

He also said how the team defense was better and the team came out to play tough.

“The guys put Friday night behind them and came out strong on defense,” Cowell said. “Our D-men were picking up sticks and our forwards were back-checking hard.”

Back-checking is a defensive play, usually made by an offensive player, where the player rushes back to the defensive end in response to the opposition’s attack.

In Saturday’s opener, goalie Williams managed to complete a shutout. He was shot at 34 times and saved all of them. Sac State had 54 shots on goal compared with the Bulldogs’ 34.

The Hornets have 10 returning players and 10 new ones. Among those returning players are Vincent Catalino and Cowell, who were the North Division’s top two scorers.

The switch from Roseville to Vacaville was strictly financial and even helped add the extra players needed to improve the roster.

“It was financial reasons, based on the quote we got for our ice time (at Skatetown),” Cowell said. “It’s only a 10-minute drive extra from Sac State, and hopefully people come out to support us.”

The switch allowed for the players’ fees to be reduced from $1,200 to $800. Former team president Joseph Gordon said renting the ice last season at Skatetown was tough to handle.

“I think it’s a double-edged sword – the club moving to Vacaville,” Gordon said. “One of the things that hampered our club so much last year was the cost of ice rental. We paid astronomical amounts of money to rent the ice from Skatetown, I believe nearly the highest in the PCHA.”

Gordon and Grindstaff said there are benefits and drawbacks from switching ice rinks.

“Practices twice a week in Vacaville, as well as games, sometimes twice per weekend are going to be very trying on the players that live on or near campus.” Gordon said. “Also, I don’t feel that the fans will show up in the numbers they did last year, having to drive twice as far away.”

They may have to struggle a bit with the long drives this season, but they do not have to deal with playing at odd times.

“Last season we had home games at nearly midnight on some nights. Who wants to watch a hockey game that won’t end until 3 in the morning?” Grindstaff said. “We hope (the switch) will not discourage our fans from coming out and watching us play.”

Another benefit is the time the games are scheduled.

“The home opener against Fresno State was at 4 p.m.; last year our home opener against Fresno was at 11:45 p.m.,” Gordon said.

When talking about the team, Gordon said he expects three players to be tremendous assets to the team this year.

“Brian (Cowell), Matt (Grindstaff) and Vince (Catalino), are amazing together. Watching the three of them play is like watching the final scene of a ‘Mighty Ducks’ movie when everything just clicks,” Gordon said. “The three of them accounted for probably more than 90 percent of our offense last year.”

The Hornets lost their two goaltenders from last year, Gökalp Gürer and Christian Walsh, and now rely on Kyle Williams. Williams was used as a defenseman last season, and will now be needed in between the pipes.

Sac State’s next game is 4:40 p.m. Friday at Stanford. Its next home game will be the following day and it will face UC Davis at 4 p.m. Tickets are $3 for Sac State students and $5 for general admission.

Daniel Morales can be reached at [email protected].