The Ice Bulls have finally settled into their new home, and over 700 people came to the housewarming party.
The recently finished Florida Hospital Center Ice is the largest facility of its kind in the state at 150,000 square feet and boasts five different rinks; most importantly though, it is the new home of the University of South Florida Ice Hockey team.
While the number of attendees at the Ice Bulls’ first game is a rough estimate from a head count —no tickets were sold for the game— there is no denying that only standing room was available by the time the first puck was dropped.
Before the game started, the USF seniors were honored in front of the packed arena for what would be their last regular season game at home.
“It was probably my favorite game of my career,” said team captain Daniel Hoeflich after the game. “It was definitely crazy. The ceremony beforehand was a lot of fun; it was cool to see a bunch of fans out there. I definitely enjoyed it.
I just love being able to get these guys around, and their love for the game of hockey is fun for me. I like getting them to come out and be a part of the family and enjoy it together.”
The team roster has eight underclassmen currently on it, all are looking forward to the future of the program.
“The first win in our new home is a great feeling,” said freshman Kenny Weightman. “Having the large crowd definitely made the game a hell-of-a-lot easier to get pumped up for and get the energy on the ice; transfer it from the crowd and turn it into goals.
The thing that I’m looking forward to the most is just being with these guys for another four years. This was the best time of my life.”
The Ice Bulls have struggled to earn their wins this season, winning only eight of the 26 games they played; however, they dominated the Gators 8-2 in their home-opener.
Sophomore forward, Logan Sheehan, led the team in scoring, finishing the night with a hat trick and scoring his last two goals in the third period. Freshman goalie, Samuel Coleman, stopped 33 of the 35 shots taken by the Florida Gator team.
“The new home is amazing. The energy in here is great. It’s beautiful here, the ice is perfect and it couldn’t have been better for a first game,” said Sheehan after the game. “I’m looking forward to more fans coming out. We had record numbers here today, it was really amazing. The energy was fantastic and our team is only going to get better. We’re going to get more fans out and it’s going to be even better next year.”
For Coleman, this is wasn’t even his most prolific performance. Twice this season, the freshman goalie faced over 60 shots, giving up four goals in each performance. However, in one of the games, Coleman was able to keep his head on a swivel as he managed to stop 62 of 66 shots he faced against UCF, the second ranked team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Southern region, in January. His efforts held the Knights to a 4-4 tie.
“It was a really good night. I had a lot of support from my team in front of me. It made my night easier,” said Coleman after the 8-2 victory over the Gators. “This is definitely the nicest rink in the South East; I’ve been playing my entire life. It’s right next to USF so hopefully we can keep this tradition going.
I joined about halfway through the season and it made me wish I had joined earlier because we were having such a great time. I look forward to next year so that we can build off of this year. We’ve got a lot of great seniors and they’re really good guys, but hopefully they’ll stick around and come and visit us every now and then.”
The next day, the Ice Bulls traveled to Rockledge, FL, which is just north of Melbourne to face the Gators one more time. USF came out victorious with a 5-3 and will be charging into the Southern Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs this Friday at Florida Hospital Center Ice.
The Bulls will need to pick up a win against their first opponent in the playoffs (Miami) on Friday night to keep their hopes alive for a trip to the ACHA regional tournament just a few short weeks later.
The Ice Bulls next game will be held at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, FL, at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night against the Miami Hurricanes.