Bringing it all together: Season winding down but heating up for Cool Cats


The UK Wildcats take on the Dayton Flyers at Lexington Ice Center on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

By Chandler Howard

The curtain is closing on the regular season for the UK hockey team. As it does, the team is searching to regain composure and attain its identity after an unstable showing Friday and Saturday night.

Fans saw two different teams in the most recent bouts of ice hockey. The club split games with Penn State, winning 5-3 on Friday and losing 6-1 on Saturday. The Cats, after leading 4-0 entering the final period on Friday, felt the overall intensity and focus levels decline. Penn State made a charge and scored three late goals, turning it into a closer game than the team had hoped for.

“We played an impressive 52 minutes of hockey. Unfortunately, the games are 60 minutes long,” head coach Rob Docherty said. “We need to learn that it is not over until that final buzzer sounds.”

The concluding minutes of Friday’s game seemingly carried over to Saturday night, sophomore forward Billy Glass said. Penn State is currently on the cusp of making it into the tournament, ranked 11th. The top 10 teams in the region advance to tournament play, so the motivation was certainly evident.

“They clearly outworked us,” junior forward Taylor Vit said. “It was obvious they wanted the win more than we did.”

The Cool Cats (23-10) now stand with only one team left on the regular season schedule. Life University will be at the Lexington Ice Center this Friday and Saturday. Though the weekend’s games will not count toward the final seasonal rankings because they will have been released before the games. Still, the team understands what needs to occur.

“It is hard avoiding the mindset that these games don’t mean anything rank-wise,” Glass said. “But we still must use them as a time to work on our chemistry and pin down our strategy for regionals. We cannot take them lightly because they are an unranked team.”

The final rankings should be released by the end of the week, Docherty said. Docherty, Glass and Vit agreed the loss to Penn State should have little affect on their final regional position, which is currently sixth. This will additionally determine the Cats’ tournament opponent(s). The regional tournament will be played in Wooster, Ohio, on Feb. 26 and 27.

The entire weekend was not just  mediocre for the Cats, though. Senior forward Daniel Ampleford returned after suffering a broken collarbone in mid-November. Glass said Ampleford was one of the most physical players on the ice throughout both games.

“It is great to have Dan back,” Vit said. “Obviously, it will take a little bit of time for him to return to top playing shape, but he played very well and we are all excited to have him back.”

The Cool Cats are now left with preparation time for the final stretch of the season. The Southeast Regional Tournament will remain in the back of their minds, however.

“Playing at the regional competition is a completely different game,” Glass said. “We have tested the waters of our opponents and now we need to focus on our energy on becoming the best team we can be going into them.”