TAMPA, Fla. — The University of Tampa men’s hockey program is having its best season in the team’s 12-year history.
“We’ve accomplished a lot,” Spartans forward Stephen Buck said. “We’ve been grinding since the first week of school.”
That grind includes 27 wins, one loss and one tie, and a conference championship win against crosstown rival South Florida. But, the Spartans want more.
They’ve advanced to the Collegiate Hockey Federation’s national tournament in Philadelphia as the number one ranked team in Division-II.
“It’s our last shot. All the boys want it,” team captain Christian Kukas told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “We’ve been talking about this since our freshmen year.”
The last time Tampa made nationals, the 11 seniors were just freshmen.
“We only played three games in pool play, and we lost all three,” Buck said. “Definitely room for improvement.”
Over the years, UT has turned into a hockey powerhouse. The team’s leader in points is Josie Davis, a defenseman, which is unheard of.
“That’s the great thing about it, we have anyone who can score. It takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the team,” Buck said. "If you’re not having your night, you know one of your teammates is going to have your back and have a good night."
“Defensemen scoring goals is unbelievable. We have Josie Davis, Christian Kukas. They’re defensemen with really great shots.”
“I see the depth and team chemistry,” first-year coach Luke Kirwan added. “They’re like a family here. Obviously, if you’re close on the ice and off the ice and that leads to success on the ice.”
The hockey budget was tight this season, even with sponsorships. Each player has to pay their own way to nationals. That’s why the team has set up a GoFundMe to help offset the cost.
“We need this. We pay for everything,” Kukas said. “This is a student-funded organization and we need some help.”
UT’s first game in the tournament is on March 18.