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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

A&M hockey club looking forward to home opener against Longhorns

Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver

Junior goalie Brydon Gillilan is one of three goalies on the Aggie ice hockey team.

Though the temperature will pick back up this weekend, Aggies can still beat the heat at Spirit Ice Arena, where the Texas A&M hockey club will host the Longhorns for the team’s first home game of the season on Oct. 19.
The Aggies are skating into their home opener against the University of Texas with a 7-3 record on the season. All week long on the team’s social media accounts, the Aggies have teased the unveiling of a brand new alternative uniform for this Saturday’s “blackout” game. Heading into another entry in the storied Aggie-Longhorn rivalry, the team is anticipating the turnout to be on par with the record-setting attendance at a Senior Night game four seasons ago, in which 1,232 fans filled the arena.
Head coach Sean Boyle said he always enjoys riding the wave of tension into every home game against Texas.
“Being here as long as I have, these games always mean a lot,” Boyle said. “Whether we’re in Austin and they bring their crowd, or we’re here and this place is full and people are going nuts, it’s a lot of fun.”
Growing up in Alaska, Boyle said finding his way to hockey was more a rite of passage in the community than a hobby.
“Football is July 1 to Aug. 15, and then it’s hockey year-round,” Boyle said. “That’s why a lot of kids up north get into it because that’s what everyone else does. We didn’t have cleats and gloves. We had skates and sticks.”
Making his first go around the rink with the Aggies this season, assistant coach Derek Harper said he is excited to see how the team performs in the high-profile game, and he credits Boyle for the club’s focus and determination.
“It’s my first year helping out Sean,” Harper said. “Looking from the outside in, it’s a great honor from him just to ask me to come in and help him build something. Sean’s been building this program for 11 years. Eventually, I would say 10 to 15 years from now, this could be a Division 1 NCAA program, and it’s all off the sweat of his back that he’s put into it.”
The team will also play the Longhorns on their home ice in Austin Friday night, but Saturday’s home opener will mark a new Aggieland experience for Harper.
“I actually haven’t seen a UT game, only heard about it,” Harper said. “I’m super pumped to see the crowd and the excitement with the kids. It means a lot more when you have a whole crowd behind you getting into it.”
Boyle said the team’s evolution from last season has been dependent on a committed group of players who lead by example and may even coach him every now and again.
“I’ve gone to weddings, I’ve gone to graduations, I’ve had players come to the hospital when my kids are being born,” Boyle said. “I hope at the end of the day, these guys have a fulfilling experience out of this. They’re going to enjoy these friends and this experience for the rest of their life. Whether we win or lose, that’s our goal — to be the most productive on the ice and also off it.”
Colin Butler, assistant captain and team secretary, said while it is best to keep a level head going to this weekend’s game, he cannot help but take pride in the team’s current skill set.
“I think this year … this is definitely the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Butler said. “We obviously can’t get too overconfident going into this game, but I know that we all are going out there expecting to win and anything less than that will be a disappointment.”
There is a shared level of ease among the team this week — a “cool confidence” as Aggies forward Hank Rooney puts it.
“The key word is confidence,” Rooney said. “We’ve had a couple games this year where we weren’t really confident going in, like when we played UTEP. Now I look around when I’m in the locker room and everyone’s just loving life, and we feel a lot more prepared for this than we ever have for any game.”
In his fourth year on the team, Club President and Assistant Captain Huston Svondrk said he knows what his team is capable of and expects to walk out of Spirit Ice with another win on the season. Saturday’s game marks the final home opener of Svondrk’s career in Aggieland — a feeling he described as bittersweet, but always worth it.
“I’m trying to take it day by day and not focus on what’s coming, because A&M hockey has been life-changing for me,” Svondrk said. “I’ve always dreamed about going to A&M from a young age and playing the sport that I love for my school, but playing on the team is a lot more than just playing hockey. It’s about the relationships that you build with your teammates and friends that you’ll never forget.”

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