The Alabama hockey team is gearing up for the upcoming season starting in October. The Frozen Tide is a club team competing in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference, which consists of every SEC team except Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M. Although the team was founded relatively recently, it has already found success since its inception in 2005.
Last season the team went to the ACHA Nationals for the second straight year, winning the opener against Iowa State before falling to California University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan-Flint.
“It was a great experience. We fell short to some of the northern kids who get to skate a lot more than we do,” defenseman Ryan Vinson said. “Being from the South, it’s awesome being able to compete with them.”
Not all of the Frozen Tide’s players are from the South, however. In addition to players from Alabama, Florida and Georgia, the team includes players from Wisconsin, New York, Indiana and California. Although hockey is traditionally seen as a northern sport, it has begun to make inroads in the South in the past two decades. Minor leagues, such as the ECHL and SPHL, have introduced the sport to states from North Carolina to Louisiana.
“It’s the South, so a lot of people don’t really know about hockey. I think if they went to a game, they would really enjoy it,” goalie Sean Vinson said. “There’s big hits, the occasional fight. It’s a rough sport.”
Sean and Ryan Vinson, who were introduced to hockey by playing for the youth team sponsored by their local ECHL team, the Pensacola Ice Pilots, said they want to build on the success of the past two seasons.
“Our expectations are to go back to nationals. Our goal this year is to get an auto-bid [awarded to the top two teams in each region] so we can skip regionals and go straight to nationals,” Ryan said.
“We really want to press forward at nationals this year. Last year we won our first game, but this year we’re looking to win more than one game at nationals,” Sean said.