LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s March Madness season and while many are cheering on the UK basketball team, they’re not the only Wildcats team hoping to bring home the hardware.
UK Club Hockey is competing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Nationals for the first time since 2007-2008.
A season of late night practices has paid off for Kentucky Wildcats Hockey.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, it’s been a lot of fun, we’ve surprised a lot of teams this year,” said freshman left winger, Jack Noel.
And the fun and chances to surprise teams continues. On Friday, the Cats will take on the University of St Thomas Tommies in the nationals of the ACHA Division 2 playoffs.
“We’re expecting five really tough games, three games in the pool play, obviously one of them is against the two time defending champion, so we know that’ll be a tough one,” said junior center Brett Quinn.
Just six seasons ago, the program only won three games. Now, six years later, junior Brett Quinn and freshman Jack Noel knew this team was special.
“Just the group of guys we had this year, everybody bonds really well together, we have five-six lines together, all are interchangeable.” Brett Quinn said.
“We’re definitely a younger group and we’re hungry for sure. We never took anything for granted.” Jack Noel said.
Last season, the Cats were eliminated in the regionals of the playoffs, but now they are one of the best 16 teams left in the nation, they hope to bring home a national championship to a stereotypical basketball school.
“It would mean a lot, to come to Kentucky you don’t really anticipate on bringing home a national title, obviously you think basketball and football will do that for you, but we have a chance to step up and bring it home to BBN.” Brett Quinn said.
But unlike basketball, football or even baseball, the hockey team receives no funding from UK. It’s a club sport and not officially a part of UK’s athletics department.
“We do nothing at the University of Kentucky on campus; there’s not a rink there, we do all the weightlifting at Ford’s Fitness Center, off campus,” said head coach, Tim Pergram.
It all emanates in Boston, meaning the team needed money for plane tickets, hotels and buses. The team has been raising money on GoFundMe to help offset the costs.
“We’re kind of out here on our own. We have to raise all our own money. The boys have to get themselves over here to practice,” Pergram said.
And Big Blue Nation has come through, raising over 70-thousand dollars for the Cats to live their dreams.
“We feel so good to have all that support behind us and just knowing that everyone is out there and supporting us,” Noel said.
“It’s absolutely amazing. None of us thought we’d reach our goal we set on GoFundMe,” Quinn said.
The team fundraises throughout the year and ticket sales from their home games help with costs too.