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Leading by example

EMILY REID/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior captains (from left) Bill Pardue and Dave Loftus, along with fellow senior Matt Naylor, know the importance of the Icecats not looking past their matchups with ASU this weekend.
By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 20, 2003

Captains skate at home for Icecats for the last time

This week's game preparation meant a little bit more than usual for the two senior captains of the No. 6 Arizona Icecats. With No. 19 Arizona State on tap this weekend for a two game set, the "Madhouse on Main Street" will be rocking more than usual, ready to give its two leaders the fond farewell they deserve.

"I'm ready to go out and use my communication degree to my advantage," says defenseman Bill Pardue with a sarcastic laugh. "I'm all set competitively though. (Hockey) has been my life since I was six years old, but now that it's almost over, it's time to go to the next level in life and see what I can do."

Forward Dave Loftus couldn't agree more with his teammate.

"When I was a freshman I wanted to play beyond college," Loftus says. "But now that I'm a senior, I've just wanted to do it for fun and have been really enjoying it."

A desert hockey hotbed

Loftus and Pardue arrived in Tucson on different paths, but the road that the two friends took toward earning the "C" on their jerseys haven't been all that different since.

Loftus first laced up a set of skates at the age of five, ultimately spending the greater part of his childhood playing youth hockey in Calgary, Alberta before moving to Toronto, Ontario, for high school.

After following parents Pat and Linda to Phoenix before his freshman year of college, Loftus knew right then that he was destined to be an Icecat at UA.

Pardue, the oldest of six children, had a long trek of his own to Arizona from his hometown of Philadelphia, including a stop at Salem State College in Salem, Mass. an NCAA Division III program for his freshman year.

"(Former Icecats) Mike Graves and Paul Dorn were both from Philly, and when I came down here to visit them I was hooked," Pardue says, also adding that this weekend will be the first time that his parents, Mariah and Bill, have made it to see him play in Tucson.

"It's a little hard for them with five other kids to take care of at home," Pardue said. "I'm pretty excited that they'll be here for this though."

Pardue spends much of his time outside the rink with his three roommates, including Icecat sharpshooter Shaun Brooks and goaltender Bryan Aronchick.

"The best part about it that one of us doesn't play because he adds a non-hockey element to the house that really helps lighten things up during the brunt of the season," Pardue says of roommate Mike Beauvais. Pardue knew Beauvais before coming to Arizona.

"Billy's come a long way from a small town school in Massachussetts to Arizona," Beauvais says. "His equipment still smells, and he and the other guys always quote coach a lot."

The consummate captains

"I think they've grown into (the captain) role very well this year," head coach Leo Golembiewski says. "They've both definitely had their best seasons as leaders during this, their senior year. I think this Icecats season has been the pinnacle of their college career."

While content with the idea of not playing hockey beyond this season, Loftus still knows that the team has one more goal to reach before the season is done winning an ACHA National Championship.

"My first three years here we had great regular seasons, but kind of flamed out at nationals," Loftus notes. "For my last time this year I'd like to see something different at nationals."

Knowing that this season is the duo's last shot at a championship, Pardue continually mentions the importance of having Loftus skating with him.

"Lofty is a great co-captain," Pardue says. "He has such a presence out on the ice that the other teams know exactly where he is all the time. That's how it should be for a captain."

While Loftus and Pardue might have the letter sewn to their game sweater, the two make sure to give plenty of credit to the team's third senior presence, forward Matt Naylor.

"Nails is the most vocal guy in the locker room," Loftus says about team's leading scorer, who through 25 contests is averaging more than two points per game. "He gets everyone fired up and is a great leader. He leads by example and the underclassmen look up to him just as much as us."

Playing devil's advocate

For the last time this weekend, the two seniors will put on their red and blue jerseys and scrape the ice at the Tucson Convention Center. For the last time, the two will get the opportunity to face off against the hated Sun Devils of ASU, a series that Pardue says will have just as much importance as always, even though the Icecats are already seeded fifth in the upcoming ACHA national tournament.

"We're going to give ASU hell this weekend, no doubt about it," Pardue said. "When it's a rivalry like this, the game means that much more as an issue of pride for both teams."

After facing ASU six times already this season, losing just one 6-5 shootout in December, the Icecats leaders both see it fitting that their last home games be against their arch enemies.

"I played with (ASU's Ian Smith) or two years in juniors," Pardue added. "He's a good kid. He's in the same shoes though, a graduating senior, just 100 miles up the road. I still expect our fans to be all over him though."

When the puck drops at 7:30 Friday night in a packed Tucson Convention Center and again on Saturday Loftus will be ready to soak in the sound of the 7,000 screaming fans that really know what Icecat hockey about.

"My first couple of seasons, I took for granted where we play and the fans," Loftus says. "This season though, I've realized how much fun it is to play here and how much I'm going to miss it."

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