By Julianne Bartosz
SMU’s men’s hockey players are often recognized for their skills on ice, but they also deserve recognition for their work off ice in the community of Winona.
These Cardinals work hard in their off season to make a difference in the SMU community. They have done so by painting two local elementary school cafeterias on Make a Difference Day, by helping sand bag for flood prevention, and by reading to elementary students. Furthermore, these skaters see volunteering as a privilege.
Hockey Captain Vince Unklesbay said, “The coaching staff does not need to twist arms to get people to volunteer, guys are usually willing to help out.”
Sophomore goalie Jason Horstman also supports the various ways that the team volunteers for its advantages on the ice. He said, “This impacts our team in a positive way. Things like this bring our team together as a group off the ice which can translate to our play on the ice.”
The men’s hockey team also included SMU in its good deeds during its first annual Teddy Bear Toss. Fans were encouraged to bring teddy bears to their game on Nov.19, 2010, against Hamline to toss on the ice after the Cardinals’ first goal.
Unklesbay said, “It was good because it made all of us want to work hard to score the first goal so we could see all the fans throw the bears on the ice. Also, from the fans’ point of view, I think they were excited to see the first goal so that they could throw stuff on the ice without getting yelled at!”
This season’s Teddy Bear Toss was so successful that the team is looking forward to doing it again next year.
Success in the classroom, too
The men’s hockey team is balancing more than just their time skating and volunteering. The team is held to certain academic expectations by their coaching staff, who has set up weekly study tables in season to ensure the team sets aside time for homework. In addition to these study tables, many of the members of the team are frequently seen in the second floor of the library.
At the beginning of the year, five men’s hockey team players received MIAC Academic All-Conference honors for their success on and off the ice for the 2009- 2010 school year.
The team also demonstrated academic success this previous semester. Both the varsity and junior varsity teams finished the semester with a cumulative team GPA above 3.00. In addition, 17 players were on the Dean’s List for first semester.
Sophomore Kevin Wentland said, “Being part of a small school has really helped me become more focused when it comes to school. I have really wanted to thank all the professors at SMU because they have been so helpful and supportive for me and many other student athletes.”
Their bonding off the ice through their time spent volunteering and their dedication to their studying had a great impact on the team. Unklesbay said, “I have never been on a team in which every guy on the team is like a best friend, but this team I feel that way. This team is special and is such a good group of guys.”