The Arizona men's club hockey team, led by 31-year head coach Leo Golembiewski, hosted open tryouts at the Tucson Convention Center last night.
The tryouts consisted of 66 players on the TCC ice vying for 27 spots on the team. For Golembiewski and the Icecats, the process is a little different than most college hockey tryouts. Golembiewski, who does not believe in star treatment or favoritism, requires all returning players — no matter how talented — to attend weeklong tryouts.
""A lot of coaches believe that seniors and upperclassmen have an automatic spot,"" Golembiewski said. ""We've never done that and I think open tryouts are the way it should be.""
This unique strategy has obviously worked for Golembiewski, as is evidenced by his 600-plus wins. His teams have finished with winning percentages in 29 of 30 years.
The tryouts were separated into two hour-long sessions, each containing 33 players. For prospective Icecats, the real test will begin today when five-on-five scrimmages begin.
The roster — which is expected to be full of new faces — will be set by Sunday night or Monday morning, according to Golembiewski.
""We have a lot of new kids,"" said returning sophomore Alex Dunning. ""Our team last year, they are almost all gone. It's going to be a completely new team.""
Dunning expects an estimated 15 new players to make the 2009-10 roster and believes that at least five of them have a chance to become assets to the team next season.
The Icecats' key personnel losses include last year's leading goal scorer, Robbie Nowinski, and shut-down goaltender and team captain Nick Boddy.
""He (Boddy) is one of the best goal tenders that I have coached here at Arizona,"" Golembiewski said. ""He's by far our biggest loss.""
Boddy was named to the Collegiate Hockey Association's Division 1 All-Star game last season and finished his career with the highest save percentage (.919) in Icecats history.
Golembiewski hopes to find Boddy's replacement through the tryout process, as six goaltenders are trying out for the squad; three will be selected.
Boddy's leadership will be hard to replace, but Dunning believes juniors forward Jordan Schupan and defenseman Zach Cherney, and sophomore defenseman Geordy Weed are poised to lead the Icecats to a top 5 ranking this season.
After a disappointing 14-13 record last season, the Icecats hope to restore the winning form that Icecat fans are accustomed to. And after missing nationals three years in a row, the Icecats are determined to return to the place they have called home for 21 straight seasons.
""It is my responsibility as well as the players' to start out as quick as we can,"" Golembiewski said. ""Our goal is to get back to nationals.""