The TCU ice hockey team's season opener against the University of North Texas Friday will measure where the program stands this year.
Head coach Derrell Upton said he knows UNT is one of the top hockey programs but he’s only worried about his team’s performance.
The club team returns for its second season after struggling to retain players and ending last season with a 3-15 record.
Team captain Michael Authier said there were growing pains and people underestimated the team last year, but overall he thought the season was successful.
“It was a success to make it through the season and prove everyone wrong who thought we wouldn’t even make it,” he said. “Now we have a team, a core group of guys, that went through those growing pains last season that we can build off of this season."
The offseason was productive for the Frogs as they made changes to the entire program.
Upton, formerly the assistant coach, accepted the position for head coach. His experience in professional hockey and coaching style were a good fit for the program, Authier said.
One of the changes the new head coach has implemented is that there is one practice per week for two hours but there are no breaks. The practices are intense and the players are expected to not waste any time, Upton said.
The biggest change in the program was the process of recruiting players, which became the main priority in the offseason, he said.
Upton said he was looking for players with good character that would be committed to the program. One standout was first-year Bobby Baumeister, who is expected to be a big part of the program.
Baumeister was part of the Mansfield Hockey Association team that won the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League Silver Division Championship for the 2012-13 season.
With the leadership of Authier, experienced veterans and committed new additions to the roster, Upton said he expects a good team.
“No matter what the score or how the game goes, we just need to prove to [opponents] that we’re a different program,” Upton said. “We want to show them we’re here to compete.
UNT (2-0) is undefeated after sweeping Texas State last weekend. The Mean Green scored a total of 20 goals in the series against the Bobcats.
“You never know, we may surprise them and we may surprise ourselves,” Upton said. “All I’m expecting to get out of this is that we are going to learn about ourselves and what we need to do to go forward.”
The game will begin at 8:30 p.m. at NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills.