Hockey club records historic season

Erik Buchinger

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh men’s hockey club finished the season with an 11-4 record and 2 overtime loses for a total of 24 points.
[/media-credit] The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh men’s hockey club finished the season with an 11-4 record and 2 overtime loses for a total of 24 points.

The UW Oshkosh Hockey Club completed its most successful season in the five-year history of the program that began in 2011. Though they failed to reach the regional tournament, the Titans finished with a 17-5-2 overall record for their first winning season in team history. “I thought this season was a good season,” sophomore leading scorer Jason Johnson said. “We helped show that Oshkosh is a legit program, and we can compete with any team in our conference.” Oshkosh made the central regional rankings for the first time in team history and finished the season ranked 12th. “What had helped was the fact that the core group of this team were juniors and seniors, and we have been playing with each other for the last three seasons together,” junior co-captain Owen Ahlstrom said. “With the help of a talented freshman and sophomore group, our team came into this season ready to compete and win.” In the semifinals of the conference tournament, Oshkosh defeated No. 8 Lewis University 5-4 in double overtime. A win over No. 6 Robert Morris in the title game would likely have sent the Titans to the regional tournament, according to Ahlstrom, even though the winner of the Northern Collegiate Hockey League does not receive an automatic bid to the tournament since the conference is still new. The team’s coach, Chris Huebel, was named the NCHL Coach of the Year in his second season with the team. “I would say the reason for all of our success this season would be the great coaching we have and also the team chemistry we have,” Johnson said. “Everyone gets along great and we all hangout off the ice as well with team activities.” Five Titans were recognized as all-conference selections. Ahlstrom and Rex Whalen received honorable mentions, Johnson and Matt Edwards were named to the second team. In addition, junior goalkeeper Tony Francois made first team and was recognized as the conference’s Player of the Year. “I fell in love with the game of hockey at 5 years old,” Francois said. “Every time I lace up the skates, it’s the only thing that matters. College club hockey gave me the opportunity to continue the game that I love while pursuing a college degree at the same time. Being named the NCHL Conference Player of the Year is a great honor, but I wouldn’t have received it without my team in front of me.” Francois said this season’s Oshkosh team was better than any other in its five years of existence. “Hands down, no question the best team in the history of the program,” Francois said. According to Francois, the Titans’ reputation among the conference reached new heights with a successful year. “In my freshman year, we used to get tossed around and teams would never take us seriously,” Francois said. “This year, I think we put UW Oshkosh’s name out there in the [American Collegiate Hockey Association].” According to Ahlstrom, this season will have a big impact on the future of the club hockey team. “This season was just a stepping stone for our future,” Ahlstrom said. “Our goal was to make a statement in our conference this year, and we very well did that. We know that we will have a target on our backs from now on and we will use that as motivation to keep winning.” Of this season’s 27-player roster, Ahlstrom said the team will likely return between 18-22 players to next year’s team. “We also have some talented players that have great interest trying out for next year,” Ahlstrom said. “Our goal is to make it back to the conference championship and win it, along with earning a regional playoff spot. Our team is motivated, and we all believe that these goals are achievable.” Johnson said this year’s team set new expectations for the club. “The success for this season is big,” Johnson said. “It will help with bringing kids in to play for Oshkosh as well as set a new standard of success we want to accomplish. This season will only help the program grow. Next year’s team will be better than this year’s team.”