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Club hockey team finds success on ice as a force in local league

Life West’s club ice hockey team allows members of the college community to spread chiropractic beyond the walls of the school’s campus. The Gladiators play weekly games against fellow members of the Solar4America Ice at Fremont Adult Hockey League (SIAHL), and the team has developed into one of the Senior Intermediate division’s top squads.

The club was formed three years ago and already boasts a track record of success, including a run to the league’s championship game during the 2017-18 season.

“When I heard we were starting up a club, I got back on the ice for the first time since high school,” goalie Andrew Crawford said following a recent 10-0 shutout over the Nighty Knights. “We’ve got excellent resources, and we all work together well here and at school.”

This year’s Gladiators are an undefeated 4-0 to this point in the season and have outscored their opponents 35-6. The team is quick to give credit for the team’s organization and structure to captain Bronston Kopala and Marc Martin, Life West’s Director of Enrollment and the lone staff member on the team. In addition to his duties at the college, Martin also plays a vital role in putting the team together and providing senior leadership on the ice.

“We’ve had more and more students from the north,” Martin said, “not just from Canada and Minnesota but from other states that are predominantly hockey-oriented. As the number of students that have interest in hockey has grown, the team has started to come together nicely.”

Martin added that he believes the team provides a productive outlet for the players during the course of their education at Life West.

“Their classes are going from 7:30 am to 5 pm, sometimes later,” he said. “To have one day a week where they can relieve stress through exercise and playing a game they love is a nice bonus, and to have like-minded people who have played hockey since they were very young has created a positive energy.”

One of the players Martin helped bring onto the team was second-quarter student Nolan Halverson. A graduate of Hermantown High School in Minnesota, Halverson played for a team that won back-to-back state championships. He was inspired to pursue a career in chiropractic after an adjustment helped him recover from an injury, and he wasn’t sure whether or not his hockey days were behind him when he moved west.

“I came for a tour of Life West wearing a hockey shirt,” he said. “Marc informed me we had a hockey team. I was on the fence about playing, but Bron (Kopala) took me under his wing and made some good points, so I’m here playing now.”

In addition to Halverson, several Gladiators have played hockey at high levels prior to coming to Life West. That isn’t a shock considering the current individual statistics around the league. Five of the league’s top six point-getters are Gladiators, including Fraser Oliver, whose 12 points (seven goals, five assists) makes him the leader on the circuit.

Understandably, those skills were cited as big reasons for the team’s 4-0 start, but the squad also credited ample camaraderie as well.

“All the players are fantastic,” Halverson said. “Hockey players are a certain type of breed, and we all kind of click once we get around each other. We have a good time and we win some games.”

“We all grew up playing hockey,” Crawford added. “It’s very passionate and it’s very communal. We’ve all been at the rink at 6 am during the week, and we all still have the same youthful excitement we had when we were kids.”

The Gladiators mentioned a common goal of winning the league championship, which will be decided in March. The schedule could be an issue, though, as the playoffs usually get underway when Life West students are either taking final exams or on break following the Winter quarter.

The same thing happened during the 2018-19 season. The Gladiators won seven straight games between December and mid-February but dropped three of their last four regular-season contests before falling in the opening round of the playoffs when they lost half the team to finals and break.

However, Martin and Crawford were optimistic that history would not repeat itself this March, due to the team’s strength in numbers.

“We have more interest than positions available on a weekly basis,” Martin said. “In the past, we’ve basically fielded half of a team during the playoffs. This year, because of our depth, we could have a very strong team for the playoffs.”

“Fortunately we’ve got a big enough and skilled enough squad now that if we lose five or six players earlier in the week, we’ll still be able to pull off a solid game,” Crawford said. “With a shorter bench, you get exhausted. When you’ve only got one or two people on the bench, you’re going to be changing out every two minutes, but everyone’s going to be on the ice for 40 minutes of a 45-minute game.”

The Gladiators play at either 7:30, 9, or 10:30 pm on Tuesday nights. Check the team’s schedule and statistics on Solar4America’s website.

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