Veteran Icecat trio leads team in pursuit of title

By Craig Degel
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 28, 1996

Katherine K. Gardiner
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Icecat senior center Kevin Oztekin (left) and senior defensemen Mark Thawley and Jon Muntz lead the third-ranked Icecats into Athens, Ohio, for the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament.

[]

For the Arizona

Icecats, this

has been the year of the "Wizard" and his warriors.

The team is filled with freshmen 11 to be exact and they looked to the "Wizard" for knowledge. The "Wizard" has not failed his young counterparts as the Icecats are ranked third in the nation heading into the American Collegiate Hockey Association Championships in Athens, Ohio. The "Wizard" is really center Kevin Oztekin and his warriors, defensemen Mark Thawley and Jon Muntz, are the three seniors that have guided the Icecats to one of their most impressive seasons in recent years.

The Icecats finished the season 22-6-1 and are a combined 10-5 against teams joining them at the national tournament.

"These guys help with the chemistry of this team," Icecat head coach Leo Golembiewski said. "A good coach needs good help from good players."

From his seniors, that is exactly what he's gotten.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Oztekin finished his career ranked third on the Icecats' all-time assists list and in the top 10 in scoring. But the Lincolnwood, Ill., native saved his best performance for his senior campaign.

This season, Oztekin, a two-time captain, led the Icecats with 65 points on 25 goals scored and 40 assists. In his final performance in front the home crowd at the Tucson Convention Center Saturday, Oztekin scored two goals and had an assist to lead the Icecats back from a third-period deficit to tie Arizona State 4-4.

But perhaps

most impor-

tantly for the Icecats, Oztekin kept himself out of the penalty box, spending just 10 minutes in the box all year. That meant Oztekin was on the ice with his young team as much as possible.

"He's an incredible thinking man's hockey player," Golembiewski said. "He was a hard worker from day one. You never get less than 100 percent from Ozzie ... ever."

"He gives me a hard time with me thinking too much on the ice," Oztekin said about Golembiewski. "I try to predict things that are

going to happen in the game. It keeps me disciplined."

If Oztekin is the thinking man's hockey player, then Muntz and Thawley are as close to bruisers as they come. While they aren't two guys to throw down their gloves and fight at the drop of a hat, the two are definitely respected forces in the defensive end.

Thawley is a 6-1, 170-pound St. Louis, Mo., native something that makes his connection with Golembiewski a little sweeter.

"'Thawles' has had a great career here," Golembiewski said. "It makes it a little fonder with the Blues thing."

Golembiewski was a goaltender with the St. Louis Blues' organization before moving to Tucson. But Thawley is more to the Icecats than just a St. Louis connection. He was named the co-rookie of the year after his freshman season and has been a consistent performer in the defensive and offensive zones since. He will finish his career in the top five all-time defenseman scoring list with close to 80 points, including 28 goals.

"He's a great skater, good passer and a good shooter," Golembiewski said. "He's done it all."

But even Thawley will admit, that at times, his intensity on the floor has left something to be desired.

"That may be true when we play some lesser teams," Thawley said. "Sometimes it's tough to get up for some of those teams.

"I think it came so easy to him that sometimes his intensity was lacking," Golembiewski said. "But I'm going to miss him because he's a great kid and a great student."

Muntz, a 6-1, 185-pound native of Colmar, Penn., played just three years with the Icecats after transferring from Nicholls State, an NCAA Division III program. But transferring from an NCAA to a club hockey program is a decision he does not regret.

"Everything about (Arizona) is better," Muntz said. "The hockey's better even though it was Division III and the school is great, too."

Golembiewski has said Muntz and Thawley could end up fourth and fifth on the defenseman scoring list, but that all depends on their performance at nationals. This season, Muntz has 23 points on seven goals and 16 assists.

Another winner of the co-rookie of the year award, Muntz has patrolled both ends of the floor with consistency, even if he has found his performance a little down this year.

"I'm a little disappointed with this year," Muntz said. "But it's not over yet."

And that is what is driving these seniors "It's not over yet."

The Icecats start round-robin play at the tournament today facing the very real possibility that they could bring home the title, something an Icecat team has not done since 1985.

While all of the seniors agreed their careers at Arizona have been fruitful, one common theme is evident.

"I've been here three years," Thawley said. "I don't think I'll be happy until I come home with (a championship)."

But Golembiewski puts a different spin on the situation.

"Win or lose at nationals, this has been an incredible year and the seniors deserve a lot of credit for that," he said.

(NEWS) (OPINIONS) (NEXT_STORY) (DAILY_WILDCAT) (NEXT_STORY) (POLICEBEAT) (COMICS)