DENVER - Hockey players skate hard and stick to a goal. That's why Gordon Nytes wasn't deterred by the fact that the University of Colorado Denver didn't have any club sports teams. He grew up playing hockey in suburban Denver, and he saw no reason why a team couldn't be formed here.
So, upon transferring here from the University of Northern Colorado in fall 2010, he put sign-up tables around campus and happily discovered "there was a lot of interest" in lacing up the skates for the school colors. "I'd been playing all my life, so I wanted to continue," said Nytes, a junior. "I just wanted to get an idea if it could happen or not."
The club makes a big splash this week as they host the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Thursday, Oct. 20; 4 p.m. at the Pepsi Center.
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The high-profile game comes in conjunction with the university's first-ever homecoming week, precedes the Colorado Avalanche vs. Chicago Blackhawks game, and there’s no charge to see ‘em play.
The team has played five games in its inaugural season, notching its first win Oct. 8 against Colorado College. The 6-5 triumph came in overtime at The Edge Ice Arena in Littleton.
"It was an overtime shootout victory. It was pretty awesome," said Casey Earp, the team's player-coach.
The university team will play home games at The Edge and the Promenade Ice Center in Westminster. They’ll compete against club squads from other universities in Colorado as well as Wyoming, Utah and Nebraska.
"We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of kids that haven't played necessarily to this level before," Earp said. "As long as they are willing to come together as a team and believe in the system, we have a real good opportunity to go far this season."
About 20 players are on the squad, which plays its regular season through the end of February. They’ll compete in Division 3 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. The regular season is followed by regional and national championships.
Besides qualifying for ACHA entry by playing a 10-game exhibition schedule earlier this year, the team was granted club status by the University of Colorado Denver Office of Student Life.
They’re self-funded and non-scholarship, so players shoulder the costs of playing. Each player will pay $1,200 this year, or $600 per semester, to participate. Nytes is hopeful that in the future the university might be able to chip in some funding to lower the cost for players. "With textbooks and tuition, college kids don't have a lot of extra cash," he said.
The team has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/UCDHockey) listing its full schedule on their Info page.