ISU roller hockey over-achieves first year

Mark Pawlak

Making the final round of the national tournament is quite an accomplishment, let alone making it in your inaugural season with only one organized practice.

That is what the ISU roller hockey club achieved last season. Next year, they are looking toward bigger and better things.

Earlier this month, the roller hockey club finished its first year of existence with a top- eight finish in the Division II level of the Collegiate Roller Hockey League National Tournament at the Wayne Gretzky Center outside of Los Angeles.

The Cyclones finished 15-7 in regular season play. They went 1-1-1 at regionals to qualify for the national tournament. At nationals, they went 1-0-2 in round robin play to earn the fifth seed in the single-elimination final round. There, the Cyclones were defeated by SUNY-Binghamton, 4-2.

“If you asked at the beginning of the season and told us we would finish fifth nationally, I’d say we’d be pretty happy,” said team captain Zack Anderson. “I definitely think we could have won more games, if not the whole thing. We had the talent to do it.”

The ISU roller hockey club was established when Anderson and club president Dan Bumblauskas stepped in when the previous roller hockey team was ready to break up.

“The team was about to disband, and we pretty much picked up the pieces,” Bumblauskas said.

Anderson, Bumblauskas and alternate captain Jeremy Evers have been playing hockey together for the last seven years.

Their time together contributed in the Cyclones success during the season.

“The only reason we were competitive this year was previous experience,” Anderson said.

The same trio each finished in the top 10 in the league’s scoring chase. Evers was the league’s leading scorer. The three also will spend the summer on the same traveling team.

As a complete team, “we practiced one time last year,” said Anderson.

Many of the team’s players participated in a league at Skate South in Des Moines.

Next year, getting practices in should not be a problem.

“The recreation services department is committed to building an in-line hockey rink,” Anderson said.

The rink is slated to open in the fall and with it will come in-line hockey as an intramural sport in the future.

Due to the fact that the Ames area doesn’t have a roller hockey rink, the club must skate at the Towers tennis courts or at facilities in Des Moines or Marshalltown, where time at the rink costs upwards of $50 per hour.

Beyond the costs to play, the game of roller hockey is very intense.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that roller hockey is really competitive. A lot of people think we just play outside on the tennis courts, but it’s just like ice hockey, and at that level,” Bumblauskas said. “I played two years of junior varsity ice hockey here, and can tell you it’s just as competitive, if not more competitive than ice hockey as far as a Division I.”

Besides it’s competitiveness, roller hockey is extremely similar to ice hockey.

All the equipment needed to play roller hockey is the same. The gloves, pads, helmets, sticks and face masks used by ice hockey players are also the tools to the trade for roller hockey players. The ice skates are replaced with in-line skates.

Roller hockey is played on a smaller rink made of plastic tiles surrounded by dasher boards.

Teams play with four skaters and a goalie on each squad. No contact is allowed. The game is played in two-22 minute periods.

The sport is also catching interest on many campuses around the country.

Most major colleges in the country have a team, Bumblauskas said.

Iowa State plays in the Great Plains Region of the CRHL. Other teams in the league include Kansas State, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa.

If the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa field teams next year, Iowa State is looking into hosting an in-state tournament at the new rink, Bumblauskas said.

For next year, they are hoping to split everyone up into a Division I traveling team and a team that will only play locally.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to hang in D-I without any practices,” Bumblauskas said.

“Hopefully we’ll be a contender in D-II, or even D-I, we’ll just see where it takes us,” he added. “I don’t expect to be great or anything, but if we practice, play hard and have guys who are willing to make a commitment, we can do well.”

The club had nine members for last season and is looking at having about 20 members next year, enough to field two teams.

Tryouts for next year’s team will be held at the beginning of the fall semester. People of any skill level are invited to join.

More information about the roller hockey club is available by contacting [email protected].