Published: October 03, 2017

Growing up playing ice hockey in Summit, NJ, Carter Haines ’19 hadn’t considered the possibility of playing an Olympic competitor, let alone when he was still in college. But on Friday, the club president of the UT Hockey Team will lead his players in a match against the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“I never thought in a million years I’d be playing a Team USA Olympic team,” said Haines, a finance major. “It’s just such a cool experience.”

The match is Friday, Oct. 6, at 7:15 p.m. at the Florida Hospital Center Ice, 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd. in Wesley Chapel. There is a requested $5 donation to the Friends of Women’s Hockey Fund to watch the scrimmage.

“We are playing a group of ladies who are on the ice almost every day and who are technically very proficient and skillful in how they pursue their on-ice game,” Head Coach Steve Kucera said. “I’ve warned our skaters to expect to be treated by the skaters of the U.S. Women’s team as though we were Team Canada!”

The women’s team recently moved their training headquarters to the Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, where they are preparing for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February. They have been playing several exhibition games in the area, including with other university hockey programs and the Tampa Bay Lightning alumni.

“We look at this game slightly differently. We want to compete, but we also know that this game isn’t for us, it’s for them,” Haines said. “Best case scenario, I hope it’s a really fun, competitive game. Obviously, I hope we come out on top, but the greater goal is to help Team USA win an Olympic gold medal.”

At the start of Spartan Hockey’s seventh season, in their home opener against Embry Riddle, UT hockey crossed over 100 wins in ACHA hockey games. The students also have a team average cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, for the ninth semester in a row.

“The guys truly embrace the concept of being a true student athlete,” said Kucera, associate professor of biology, adding that many of them are in very challenging majors.

The Spartans come into the new season off of their second consecutive appearance in the ACHA Division III National Tournament, and the first ever SCHC conference championship. Kucera and Haines said the Spartans have some great scorers who are returning, including first team All-American Jake Peterson ’18, as well as ACHA DIII South Player of the Year, Matt Antonacci ’18. There is also a strong contingent of first-year players.

“The greater goal is for a national championship,” Haines said. “We’ve been knocking on the door for the last two years in two consecutive national tournament appearances. We want the ring this year.”

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