Thursday, March 01, 2007


Eagles on ice!

Not many people know about it, but Eastern Washington University has a Hockey team. Actually, it's a club, and they're ranked number one in the nation in the division in which they compete. Nice writeup in the SpokesmanReview about the team as they head on to the national tournament. Here's the article - since many of you can't link to the Spokesman without a password.

Eagles gain prominence on ice
EWU hockey squad ranked tops in region
Paul Delaney CorrespondentMarch 1, 2007

Mention the subject of Eastern Washington University's hockey team, or wear one of their hooded sweatshirts around town, and you'll likely get a pretty standard response: "I didn't know Eastern had a hockey team."

Eastern's skaters are one of the best kept secrets in local sports. But after compiling a 19-1-3 record and being honored with a No. 1 regional ranking, it's quite obvious the teams the Eagles beat and those they'll face know about EWU hockey.

The Eagles will test that notoriety starting Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo., playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II championship tournament. The ACHA ( is a nationwide organization that oversees several hundred club hockey programs across the United States.

Washington State, Gonzaga and Idaho are also members of the ACHA.

Unlike in two previous trips to Colorado this season – each a 19-hour bus ride – the team will fly this time, arriving Tuesday in Denver.

EWU's pool opponents – Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State – read like the Who's Who of college athletics. While the teams Eastern will play are not the NCAA Division I teams from these schools, they are still plenty tough.

"There's going to be some good competition, and we're going to be stretched," said first-year EWU coach Gary Braun. "But I think we're also going to be up to the challenge, too."

"The key to our success will be our conditioning and powerplay," predicted third-year EWU defenseman Bill Shaw. "Our powerplay has been very successful."

If Braun had his way, he personally might be able to inform the Cheney and Spokane communities about the team with the booming voice that punctuates the 6 a.m. practices that take place three days a week at Eagles Ice-A-Rena in north Spokane.

The 58-year-old Braun is a former head and assistant coach with the Spokane Chiefs. He was part of the 1991 Memorial Cup championship team with coach Bryan Maxwell and sees a lot of similarities between that club and the one he now guides.

He compares their makeup to one of the most memorable teams ever to lace up the skates in Spokane.

"We talked about the year we won the Memorial Cup," Braun said of a meeting he had recently with the EWU squad. "After Christmas the team took over (the leadership role).
"When we won the Memorial Cup that year with the Spokane Chiefs, Ray Whitney, Jon Klemm and the whole group took over. They took over the dressing room."

With all the championship teams he's been with, Braun said, "that's what you strive for – that the players become accountable to each other. I think we've got that in this team."

Braun said it's all about team at Eastern.
"Nobody is concerned about their statistics. In fact, I don't think anyone knows what their statistics are.
"We're concerned about what our team does. That's a great tribute to the guys."

Braun could also compliment his team for the sacrifices – most all of them financial – that are made playing hockey at Eastern.
There are no scholarships. Members of the team must pay $1,800 a year for expenses, plus pick up the tab for meals on the road.
Team fundraisers and merchandise sales help make up some of the difference.

Practices also test the players to the max. Braun is an "old school" coach with roots that trace back to playing for legendary names in junior hockey such as Scotty Munro and Ernie "Punch" McLean as a member of the Estevan (Saskatchawan) Bruins in the 1960s.

Freshman Alex Arnold hails from Anchorage, Alaska. While he hardly looks forward to the drill instructor-like workout Braun puts his players through, he appreciates how it is helping in the goal to win a title.
"In the third period, a team might be as good as us," Arnold said. "That's where it (conditioning) comes out."
"He (Braun) knows how to incorporate the old-style hockey and the new-style hockey," said Edmonton's Kris Kushniruk, another freshman. "He works us real hard in practice."
But the sacrifice will be worth it as far as Kushniruk is concerned. He looks forward to the day when the new EWU Rec Center ice rink opens in 2008 and the hockey team will have a home on campus.
"It will save me some sleep," said Kushniruk. "I wake up at 4:45 in the morning to come here (at Eagles Ice-A-Rena for practice)."

The team's accomplishments extend off the ice, too, as nine players – Bill Shaw, Paul Campbell, Brandon Price, Kris Smith, Mike Truex, Nick Kooikier, Jonathan Braun, Mike Jensen and Kenny Johnston – are on EWU's most recent dean's list with grade-point averages above 3.5.

Former EWU administrator – and later interim President – Brian Levin-Stankevich helped form the club in 1998. He coached the Eagles the first two years before turning over the reins to Dan Ryan, who helped elevate the program further.

Ryan took EWU to its first tournament appearance last year.
"Dan Ryan helped take the program to a higher level," Shaw said.
Maybe when their five-day stay in Colorado is finished, even more people will know about EWU's hockey team.
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