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From the booth: Punchy Cats need more fan support


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Ryan Casey
staff writer
By Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, December 6, 2005
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Men's and women's basketball, volleyball, men's and women's swimming, and ice hockey were all in action during a busy weekend for Arizona athletics.

Wait ... ice hockey?

Of the nearly 37,000 undergraduates on campus, I'd be willing to bet that half of them learned of the men's basketball team's defeat to Houston by Sunday.

Many probably even knew of the women's hoops team's conquering of the Fiesta Bowl Classic and volleyball's advancement to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament (despite getting royally screwed with its travel schedule).

Hardcore Wildcat fans celebrated the swim teams' dominant performances in Texas that same day, but how many students knew that the No. 13 Icecats defeated No. 6 Weber State not once but twice over the weekend?

By my count at Saturday's game, 30.

Sure, more people may know of the team, but knowing of and supporting are two entirely different things.

For the Icecats, independent members of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the bulk of their support comes from Tucson locals - who don't seem to mind that the team comes with a stamp of approval from Campus Recreation, which dubs Arizona a club team.

Saturday night's game was a perfect example of why students should make the Tucson Convention Center Arena a regular destination each weekend the Icecats are in town.

Following a hard-fought, 1-0 victory over Weber State on Friday night, during which freshman goalie Nick Boddy stopped all 49 shots he faced (for those basketball fans out there, think dropping 30 points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 10 assists), Arizona came out a little sluggish, digging themselves an early 1-0 hole.

If you think "Tuitama-to-Thomas" is the only worthwhile freshman connection in town, you should try "Conover-to-Nowinski" on for size (that's Matt and Robbie, respectively). The newcomers each racked up a goal and an assist en route to a 2-1 Icecat advantage going into the second period.

The next two periods, while deprived of scoring, were as physical as they could've been without becoming an all-out brawl - the key words being "the next two periods."

As time expired, the Icecats, in one of hockey's oldest traditions, lined up to show their respect of Weber State by offering handshakes.

Apparently, their opponents have never seen the "respect" memo.

The first in Arizona's line was senior captain Mike Pelletier, whose brother, D.J., broke his wrist early in Friday's game.

There were a number of scrums Saturday, but no actual punches were landed - until Weber State's Ian Soldano ripped off Pelletier's helmet and introduced the defenseman's face to his fist.

The Icecats retaliated, as junior Dave Cwik went toe to toe with a number of players, who in turn retaliated and quickly spun things out of control.

Memories of 2004's infamous NBA players' brawl in Detroit were evoked, as drinks and even shoes flew onto the ice, narrowly missing Weber State players and coaches.

Fans who stuck around to witness the mayhem booed the Weber State players taking cheap shots at Cwik as he skated around the rink, pointing to the stands and firing up the crowd. (Weber State goalie Kyle Gover even tried to trip the helmetless forward.)

Blood stained the ice near Weber State's bench, presumably from Cwik's face, badly bloodied from his adventure around the ice. Fights were everywhere. Outside of the movie "Slap Shot," it's hard to imagine a similar situation.

I'm not condoning this type of activity. Rather, I'm trying to portray the spontaneity of an Icecat game. You never know what's going to happen.

For Arizona head coach Leo Golembiewski, Saturday's activities - while resulting in misconduct penalties for Cwik, Nowinski and Pelletier (Weber State had four players ejected as well) - proved just how close-knit his team is, sticking up for each other when it mattered most.

Golembiewski adamantly told the crowd that he was proud of his players, and that they "shouldn't have to take that crap," in reference to the brawl.

Talk about intense. And this was after the game.

As for the game itself, the Icecats showed why Golembiewski has nearly 550 career wins, capitalizing on the chances they had early in the game and protecting their lead for the next 40 minutes.

Sure, hockey is a bit off the big sporting map in Tucson, but isn't that part of the fun? Even if you don't learn all the rules, you can learn the chants ("He shoots, he scores! Hey goalie, you suck!"), and go for a unique experience not offered anywhere else in the Old Pueblo.

If only there was a need for those "hardcore" fans who lobbied for the student section in McKale Center to do the same for the "Madhouse on Main Street." If only Zona Zoo members expanded their attention to sports that desperately need their attention - men's club hockey among them.

The product is there. The students aren't.


Ryan Casey is a journalism junior and the sports director at KAMP Student Radio. His radio show can be heard Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1570 AM or at www.kamp.arizona.edu.



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