The Ice Bulls competed against the U.S. Women’s national team in two exhibition matchups over the weekend at Florida Hospital Center Ice before the bulk of their season begins.
The Ice Bulls, a Division 3 club team, was outmatched by Team USA and fell to the national team 6-1 and 8-1. Though the margin of defeat was large, the series gave the Ice Bulls healthy competition early in their season.
“It was definitely a great experience,” club president Kenny Weightman said. “Obviously they’re not as big as we are, but their hockey knowledge and where to move the puck, their passing ability, their quickness and everything they do is something you don’t see in ACHA.”
The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), is the league USF plays in. Some of the conference’s teams include other universities in Florida and around the nation. Some of its opponents include UCF, FGCU and the University of Georgia.
The team will fly to New York the first weekend of November to play against teams from the northeast.
When the ice rink was built in Wesley Chapel, the Ice Bulls were given their own locker room. Once the U.S. Women’s National Team started using the rink, USF decided to let them use its locker room while they prepared for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Feb. 11.
It was that respectful gesture that opened communication between the two teams.
“They (USWNT) decided Tampa was going to be their primary practice facility before the Olympics, with the new 5-rink building, it was the perfect place to house them,” Weightman said. “The associate coach, Brett Strot, reached out to us to get the game together.”
The national team proved to be too quick for the Bulls, stringing together early goals in both games that USF wasn’t able to come back from.
“Every pass was perfect,” forward Zachary Olsen said. “They played really well as a team and were coached well. I didn’t know what to expect.”
The Ice Bulls have made seven postseason appearances since the team’s creation in 1989, and the competition against the olympic ability of the Women’s National Team was the best they had ever seen.
USF’s club hockey team was founded by two students, Eric Mattson and Chip McCarthy, who said they missed playing hockey while they attended USF. They jumped through all the hoops and found students at the school with a similar feeling and organized the club.
Missing hockey while attending school at USF remains today.
“I think a lot of the team came to USF because it’s a great school,” Olsen said. “They joined the team because they wanted to keep playing hockey.”
The Ice Bulls play at Florida Hospital Center Ice, which is 20 minutes away from USF’s Tampa campus, and tickets are free. The Ice Bulls’ schedule and other information, including an upcoming jersey sale, can be found on their website.
“It’s an awesome experience, a lot of fun, (and) free for USF students,” Weightman says. “If everyone could get their friends and come to the game it would be a lot of fun.”