For 24 years, there has been a sports club representing the USF name — a sport that doesn’t receive much
But for 60 minutes, two to three times a week, the USF Ice Bulls skate in front of fans to put their work to the test, to the tune of a 4-0 start this season.
Last Friday, the Ice Bulls hosted their home opener against Palm Beach State College Panthers, which ended with a 5-3 Ice Bulls win.
USF continued its momentum against Palm Beach State during Saturday’s game, beating the Panthers 8-2, due in part to a hat trick by junior forward Justin Lacy.
Though senior forward Andrew Silvers said he wasn’t pleased with the Ice Bulls’ victory, it’s the commitment put into their practices that has helped them to the undefeated start.
For most of the players, their passion for hockey, which is not recognized as an NCAA sport at any Florida university, started at an early age.
The sport remained a major part of the students’ lives, even at the college level.
“Hockey has always been a huge part of my life growing up, and has always been a way for me to escape into my own little world where nothing else can bother me,” junior forward Aaron Humphrey said. “It has helped me grow into the man I am today.”
Not only is the physical commitment to a club sport challenging, but players said the financial commitment is a hurdle as well.
“Money is a huge part of hockey,” Ed Miller, father of junior goalie Alex Miller, said.
This year, Ed has spent close to $5,000 on gear alone for his son.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been a big contributor to the USF hockey club, just as parents of the players have contributed financially.
The Lightning has allowed USF to use its practice facility, the Ice Sports Forum. USF also helps the Ice Bulls by paying for ice time.
The combined efforts have helped the Ice Bulls and hockey in the area, according to coaches.
“Florida hockey has progressively increased over the years. I would like to see more exposure given to the kids and the schools they play for,” assistant coach Larry Silvers said.
The hockey club has a website titled icebulls.org, which includes the roster of all the players and coaches, and a schedule of all the upcoming games this season.
In addition to the efforts from outside sources, the team has taken its own steps in gaining recognition with a Facebook page, their website and a Twitter account with 487 followers who receive play-by-plays each game.
The hockey club holds practices on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex at 9 p.m.
The Ice Bulls will hit the ice against the University of Tampa on the road tonight at 9:30 p.m., followed by the next home game Friday, at 9 p.m., when the Bulls take on Miami.