Tomorrow is the day for Colorado State hockey. Emotions are running high as the Rams take their first look at the Division I for the first time in program history on Friday afternoon.
It has been a long time coming, with years of planning towards a spot in the big house, the realization is finally setting in.
“Ive been looking forward to these games since forever, since I first decided to come here,” sophomore Connor Tamai said. “They talked about how we were going to the Division I for this next coming year of course, and it has been marked on my calendar ever since.”
Friday begins a three game series in Cleveland, Ohio for CSU as it takes on No.10 Ohio, No. 12 Davenport and No.15 Stony Brook University over a three day period.
“Now we’re playing teams that are solid and can definitely knock us out on any given night, if we do not play to our potential,” head coach Kelly Newton said. “We need to come out strong — right out of the shoots — and show them what kind of a team we really are.”
The showcase will determine where CSU stands as the D-I newcomer.
The Rams have been preparing on the ice since the last week in August putting together lines and a competitive lineup. After a month and a half of practice, preseason games and two regular season matches over the weekend, CSU will take its knowledge and put it into action.
“We need to make sure we are really solid in our own zone, these teams are going to be really good and have a lot of talent,” Tamai said. “We’re going to need to be really strong to hold them up; it’s going to be a couple of close games.”
While play gets tougher, this also means players are bigger, faster and stronger.
Sophomore Jordan Gnatowsky recognized the challenging game this weekend will present as he headed into Tuesday night’s practice.
“I think it is going to be a harder mental game and a harder physical game because they are all bigger,” Gnatowsky said. “It’s going to be tougher from the physical aspect, but mentally it’s going to be tough because if you take stupid penalties, they are going to score and then get ahead — so that’s going to suck.”
Both coach and players acknowledged the excitement headed into this weekend.
“I think everybody should be nervous, and if you are not nervous I don’t think you are ready to play,” sophomore Jamison Wicks said. “In my mind, it is a good nervous; not intimidated or scared.”
As players are nervous what to expect from the Division I, what it will be like and how they will do, a fire to prove themselves presides in the CSU locker room.
According to Newton, the Rams are reasonably healthy and a couple players are returning from injury. CSU is ready to go.
“We just need to be sure of everything. No one player is going to win the game for us, it has to be team effort,” Gnatowsky said. “We dont have the biggest team, but we’re quick and (we’ve) got a lot of heart. We know what we need to do, we just need to do it.”
Sports writer Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.