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Feb. 23, 2015

CSU hockey closes its second season

By Jordan Smith

 

During most winters, basketball is the sport that draws the most attention around Cleveland State University. Cleveland State’s two-year-old club hockey team hopes to shift some eyes its way in the coming years.

The club was formed in 2014 and currently has a 5-4 record. The roster currently includes 22 men, with a significant number being skaters coming from local area high schools. Coach Rick Schmitt says he has players from about 10 area high schools that were among the best on their team.

“We have a talented team,” Schmitt said. “Guys found us that are some of the top players in their high school. We were able to play top-ranked teams and compete with them because we have talent.”

Schmitt also notes that the team came from very humble beginnings. He recalls current club president Cody Orhanskey getting a monetary grant for ice, and game-ready uniforms from a failed attempt at a university hockey team several years prior.

“In 2009 they had a team but I guess it fell through, so I wondered how to pick it up,” Orhanske said. “[I] talked to [Cleveland State President Ronald] Berkman and then he told me what to do and I just got on it. All we have is basketball. We have no contact sports really, so it’d be great to have hockey and basketball.”

When he first attempted to bring hockey to Cleveland State in 2013, it didn’t go well because only nine skaters showed interest in putting a team together.

“The first year where it didn’t come to fruition they rented ice in Brooklyn, had four practices and that was it,” Schmitt said.

The team plays its home games at the Iceland in Strongsville.

Schmitt, who had no intentions of becoming a collegiate hockey coach, is a father of three boys who all played hockey. He said he was dragged into coaching by two of his young boys because their youth team needed help. Shortly after, he got three different certifications that allow him to coach at the collegiate level.

Orhanske said they saw significant change last offseason when they made more of an effort to spread the word about the prospective team. His roles off the ice include the handling of paperwork and reaching out to recruits.

“We started spreading the word, and going to high schools to let them know we had a team and then we wound up making 10 cuts,” Orhanske said. “It pretty much just happened by getting the name out there.”

The team president said that the turning point came last summer, when Orhanske and Coach Schmitt came together and put in many hours to assure that Cleveland State wouldn’t miss another opportunity at having a hockey club. They put together a schedule with games featuring matchups against other collegiate teams across the state including Ohio University, Xavier University, and the University of Cincinnati.

After word spread that organized, competitive hockey was at Cleveland State, student interest increased to the point where players nearly had to be cut from the roster.

“We went to local high schools and told their athletic departments that CSU has a hockey team, sent out a bunch of emails to local rinks to put up signs and we put up a website that has a recruitment form which set up ways for people to get a hold of us,” Orhanske said.

Orhanske also said that people are also hearing about them by reaching out to the local rinks in the neighboring suburbs of Cleveland.

A lot of high school students assume that their hockey playing days are over after they graduate from high school because many of them do not get scholarships to continue playing. The fact that a lot of local kids now have the option to continue playing makes Cleveland State ideal for those who thought they’d have to hang up the skates for good. It also gives Cleveland State a solid advantage when it comes to talent.

“Cleveland is a hockey hotbed,” Schmitt said. “There is good hockey here and the current goal for us is to enter the tri-state D-2 league. For us to get to that point would take a lot of time, commitment and manpower.”

The Vikings are now members of the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division 3. The Tri-state D-2 league Schmitt mentioned includes Ohio University, the University of Akron, Wright State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State. Orhanske’s goal is to get the program to D-1 status which would make them an NCAA program with scholarships.

Although Orhanske said that the overall mission is to go NCAA, he also admits that it would take a while for that to happen. The sophomore left-winger is currently pursuing a dual major in business economics and chemistry. He said once he graduates, he will hand the title of president down to a teammate who he feels will be able to keep the team functioning. He hopes Cleveland State will be a nationally recognized D-2 team by the time he graduates.

His hope for the club could become reality if it keeps playing top opponents as tough as it does. It recently defeated Slippery Rock University, a Division 1 team, by a score of 8-6. It also defeated the University of Akron twice before losing to them at Quicken Loans Arena.

Freshman forward Brendan McCann is having more fun with the team than he expected. He’s a St. Edward’s graduate from Lakewood who played hockey his entire life. He didn’t think he would ever have the chance to play competitively again after high school, but after he arrived at Cleveland State, he’d heard about the club hockey team and knew he had to join.

“I didn’t know what to expect but it has turned out to be a really fun and competitive experience,” McCann said. “I think that as the team grows it will draw more and more kids from the area to continue their hockey careers, and to go to CSU.”

Orhanske said the team is already growing faster than he thought it would, but not to his surprise.
“I knew it wouldn’t fall apart in its first few years,” he said. “I got help from Rick, and a new coach and its all looking good.”

Cleveland State’s final home game is against Xavier on Feb. 22. Orhanske says the team is still looking to fill off-the-ice positions including general manager. For more information, visit clevelandstateclubhockey.com.