By Larry Mullenix
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The1994-95 Arizona club hockey team is wary of becoming overconfident before it has proven itself on the ice, but with the talent the Icecats have, they are still optimistic that this season will be a successful one.
At the annual Icecats' press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Tucson Convention Center, UA coach Leo Golembiewski said he hopes this year's team can recapture the championship in what is the 10th anniversary of its first championship.
"This is my 16th season as head coach and I hope it will end with the second championship for the Icecats," Golembiewski said.
"The leaders on this team are very important to our success as a team this year because they will help our sophomores and freshmen."
The leaders that he was speaking of are the team's four co-captains, Steve Hutchings, Nate Soules, Kevin Oztekin and Chris Noga.
Hutchings, the team leader in both points and scoring last season, thinks the leadership role that he has been put in is an honor.
"I'm definitely ready to have another great season and lead these guys," he said. "The other captains are great talents as well and they will help with the leadership of the team."
Soules believes the other members of the team will look to the co-captains for leadership on and off the ice.
"They know that we have the abilities," Soules said, "but I think what makes us leaders is that they see our work ethic and dedication."
The leaders will have to take a team which has talented juniors and seniors and a wealth of experienced sophomores, and mold it into a group that can win a championship.
Golembiewski thinks that it will be a difficult process for the team as well as for the captains, but said all involved are up for it.
"We don't have an old team, nor do we have a young team," Golembiewski said. "We have five seniors and the rest of the team consists of a few juniors and sophomores combined with our incoming freshmen.
"If we stay healthy and our academics stay like they are, we should have a successful season and compete for the title on March first through fourth."
The team should be solid as always with stars like Hutchings, Oztekin and Soules leading the explosive front line, and the steady play of co-captain Noga and fan favorite Ricky Pope should help the Icecats to continue to be considered one of the top teams in the country.
"I think we have a premier front line," said Noga, who Golembiewski expects to be the quarterback of the defense. "Our defense should be solid because of guys like Mark Thawley and Jon Muntz, who has a great offensive ability as well.
"Joel Nusbaum is a defensive stopper and you don't need to say much about Ricky Pope."
Goaltending will be strong again with the return of senior goalie Dennis Hands and sophomore Josh Rutzick.
"We struggled a lttle when Dennis went out last year with an injury and so we recruited another goaltender and he has been maturing very well," Golembiewski said. "We are much deeper than we were last year. We haven't had three
good guys like we do now for a long time."
"If nothing goes wrong, we definitely have the talent to win it all," said Oztekin, who wants his final year to be a good one. "As a captain I think I have to lead by example and be on time and always work hard."
Said Golembiewski: "For this team to be a success we must truly work as a team. The 'we' concept involves all forwards, defensemen and goalies working together."
The season begins tomorrow with a game against ASU at the University Activity Center in Tempe.
"We usually like to have 20 days of practice to get ready for the season," Golembiewski said. "We've only had 15, so this will prove to be our first test as a team. (ASU's) ice is smaller and that presents another problem for us, but I think we will be fine if everything goes as planned."
"Give us a chance to work out the kinks a little bit," Oztekin said. "It will be nice to skate against another team."
Said Hutchings: "It will be tough because their ice is smaller, but I think it will be fun to play against ASU in Tempe. We usually have a lot of fans to support us."
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