TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — For the second season in a row, the University of Alabama division two hockey team has made a national championship tournament in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The 18-7-1 Frozen Tide qualified for the first annual AAU College Hockey National Championship Tournament, hosted by the Collegiate Hockey Federation. Alabama holds the No. 18 seed after placing third in the College Hockey South D2 Playoffs. The club program is set to start pool play Friday against No. 10 South Carolina as it attempts to advance in the 32-team bracket.
Each of the about 30 Frozen Tide players contributed $3,500 at the start of the campaign. The team has set up a GuFundMe page to help fund the trip to Ice Line Quad Rinks, which is over 900 miles away from Tuscaloosa. The Frozen Tide is looking for $40,000 with the tournament taking place from Friday through March 15.
“With all the funds that are needed for the team to get there, we need a lot of help so it’s possible for us to get there,” sophomore center Jake Oldham said. “So, it will help pay for the bus that will take us from Tuscaloosa up to Philly and back, and then help pay for a hotel so everyone has a place to stay while we’re there, and then also help pay for food so we have something to eat over there as well.”
The best performing program from each pool, which consists of four teams, will move on to the quarterfinals after round-robin play. In 2021-22, the national tournament for the CHF was dubbed the Federation Cup National Championship Tournament. Alabama made it to the Elite 8 before falling to eventual national champion Babson College.
Before last season, the Frozen Tide’s only hockey club competed in the more prestigious American Collegiate Hockey Association. A division two team was created for the lower-tiered CHF to expand opportunities on the ice for Alabama students. Greg Deveny, a Birmingham Bulls goaltender in the late 1990s, is the division two team’s head coach.
Oldham, who is planning on making the trip despite being out for the season because of a dislocated patella, said last season opened their eyes to the talent that’s out there. Most of the team from 2021-22 returned, and the Frozen Tide is seeking to make a deeper run for its second season.
“Last year was like the test run, and now we’ve got it going,” Oldham said. “It’s going to be something really special.”
Besides South Carolina, who are also members of College Hockey South, No. 7 Liberty and No. 26 Fordham are also competing in Pool G. No. 3 Tampa, No. 9 Florida Atlantic, No. 16 Georgia, No. 21 Tennessee, No. 22 Auburn, No. 25 Embry-Riddle, No. 27 South Florida, No. 28 Georgia Tech and No. 31 Clemson mark the rest of College Hockey South’s representatives at the national tournament. St. Bonaventure is the No. 1 seed.
Jake Dierks, a freshman defenseman, said the Frozen Tide’s chemistry has grown throughout the year. Though Alabama plans to enjoy the trip outside of hockey, it knows what it wants to do on the ice.
“I think we’re one of the more faster teams in the league,” Dierks said. “It’ll be a national, so we just have to use our speed and just play to our strengths and not play down to anybody. Just don’t make stupid penalties and just see what happens.”