Just a few months ago, USF hockey had won the Southern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SCHC) and was preparing to set out on its third trip to the national tournament in the past four years. Captain Kenny Weightman felt the team wasn’t going home empty-handed.
“We’ve made it to nationals in the past and that was the goal. We felt like, ‘this is our tournament’ and we could win this and make some noise,” Weightman said on The Oracle Sports Podcast.
But the Bulls never made it to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national tournament, which was scheduled to take place in Frisco, Texas, between March 19-29.
In fact, not a single team made it. Just a week before it was scheduled to start, the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The dream was squashed right when it was within reach, according to Weightman.
“It sucks that we didn’t get to go, compete and do what we needed to do,” he said.
Weightman first heard the news that USF had canceled all sports from senior goalie Samuel Coleman.
“Sam and I heard it first because Sam was talking to one of the students in Business Services,” Weightman said. “He immediately called me, and that was when just USF shut down. They said no sports clubs could travel. The tournament was canceled at that point. Our initial thought was ‘What do we have to do [to go]?’”
Weightman broke the news to his teammates before their last practice on March 11.
“We had to tell the guys [in] the locker room. It was pretty emotional. Honestly, everyone is upset and in disbelief [and] shock,” Weightman said. “You work so hard all year for this and then nothing. You get one practice to say goodbye to the kids you play the whole year with.”
Although it didn’t end on a positive note, Weightman was impressed with how well the team performed throughout the season.
“The coaching staff did an amazing job this year with keeping everybody on the same page and sticking to a system that worked for our team,” he said. “I think that was probably our biggest asset this year.”
Some seniors won’t get to build on what was established last season. They graduated without the chance to compete for a national title.
But Weightman is returning for his fifth and final year of eligibility.
“I’m going to come back this next year. I’m graduating in the fall then I’m applying for the master’s program so I can finish out and play my last year,” he said.
The team has somewhat of a chip on its shoulder, according to Weightman, who made one thing clear — the ultimate goal next season is to win a national title.
The growth of the Bulls last season can only make them better.
“We got screwed out of it last year so let’s make it the best this year,” he said. “There are seniors that are leaving, but [most] are doing grad school trying to play their fifth year. We also had a very young team [with many] freshmen on the team. They’re going to have more experience than they already had this year.
“I think that’s just going to help our chances going into next year.”
For the full conversation with Kenny Weightman, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Nolan Brown and Hannah Halili, which premieres this Friday.