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Marshall hockey club seeks recognition

Feb. 23, 2013 @ 12:25 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Like a lot of college students, Steven Macuch has to be strict about managing his time.

He juggles a full class load along with a job, and, when it's time, he hits the ice.

Macuch is a student-athlete, though not in the traditional sense that one might think.

He's not on a full-ride scholarship, he doesn't get bused or flown around the country and he doesn't have a small army of trainers and equipment managers looking after him.

He's captain of Marshall University's hockey team. But the team isn't funded by the university, it's a club. So team members, of which there are about 20, have to come up with the funding, do the scheduling and everything else.

Players have to drive to the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena to practice and for home games.

"I got back from practice at 2 a.m. and had to work at 7 a.m.," Macuch said Thursday. "It's just normal college life. You run on very little sleep. It makes it tough but it's worth it."

Macuch is a sophomore from Maryland who's been playing hockey since he was 4 years old.

He's captain of a squad that has been in existence for two years, got its first full-time coach this season, and is just now to the point of scheduling games for future seasons in advance.

But for such a young program, that's a leap. The club already has 21 games set for its 2013-14 season, which begins in October and runs through mid-March.

The ultimate goal for the club is to become a Marshall-sponsored sport. In the meantime, there are some other hurdles to clear.

"We've got to get our start times up," said freshman winger Tanner Adkins. "Hopefully we can do that so more people can come to the games."

Right now, the puck typically drops at 10 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday night, because the rink is open to the public up to that time.

Spreading the word among fellow students is also a priority.

"We actually had a student section at our last game," Macuch said. "It was only 10 or 15 people, but that was so awesome to see. I'd love for us to have a full student section every game."

Right now, attendance at home games bounces between 100 to 150, and reaches 200-plus when Marshall hosts another West Virginia team like West Liberty or Wheeling Jesuit. Team members say they'd like to see that increase to between 300 and 400 by next season.

"We're trying to schedule WVU," Adkins said.

Adkins is another lifer who has been gripping a stick since he was 4. He played in the Huntington Junior Blizzard youth league before the semi-pro team left town, and continued playing in a youth league in Athens, Ohio. He has a scar running down the back of his forearm where a titanium plate and nine screws had to be inserted after he was on the receiving end of what he described as a "cheap shot" in youth hockey.

Adkins exemplifies the MU hockey club: a bunch of young guys who are very passionate about their sport and want to see it recognized.

"I don't even care if it becomes an official sport in my time," Adkins said. "It's not even for me, I just want it to happen for all the kids who love to play and the kids that come after me."

Another hurdle the team is battling right now is consistency. For instance, a National Hockey League team dresses 18 players for a game, but the MU hockey club is lucky if it can get 10 or 12 players at practice at the same time, and road games present problems for some team members.

As a result, the core group of players log massive amounts of ice time, leading to tired legs by the end of a full, 60-minute game.

"Indiana University was up on us 1-0 at the end of the first period," Macuch said of a recent game. "Their coach actually told us afterward that he was really worried going into the break. But they ended up winning 13-0 because by the end our legs were gone."

The hockey club is hosting a night for muscular dystrophy awareness Saturday, during their 10 p.m. game with High Point out of North Carolina.

Half of the proceeds from ticket sales, along with money from a raffle will go to a St. Albans elementary school student with the disease. The parents asked the child not be identified.

The child will also drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff before the game.

"Anything we can do for the community and raise awareness for our club we'll do," Macuch said. "Next year, we want to do between two and four fundraisers. It doesn't matter what it is, we'll do it."

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