Breaking the Ice with IU Hockey

Freshman Nicolas Castracane (23) prepares for the faceoff during IU’s game against Ohio on January 14, 2023.

Mateo Fuentes-Rohwer, Staff Writer

It was 9:15 on a frigid Friday night. Parents, students, and fans filtered out of Bloomington High School South’s gymnasium after a resounding boys basketball win and headed to their cars. With complete obliviousness, they drove away, leaving behind a top 20 collegiate matchup right next door.

 IU’s hockey team was about to challenge Ohio in the first game of a doubleheader over the next two days at the Frank Southern Ice Arena, and while the lack of publicity may be discouraging to most, the program is used to this treatment. Nevertheless, it has built its success in the shadows, and will likely continue to do so for years to come. 

A Healthy Team Culture

This success starts at the top, and at the top of IU’s hockey program is head coach Andrew Weiss. Not having any future NHL players may have its downsides, but it allows Weiss and his staff to stress the importance of success on as well as off the ice. The team sports a 3.3 average GPA, which isn’t a coincidence.

“For the most part, all of our kids are from out of state, so they or their parents are paying really good money,” said Weiss. “They might as well do the best they can in school.”

The program’s intensity towards academics translates directly into their on ice-play. IU freshman Nicolas Castracane was direct in how he viewed the culture of the team and program as a whole.

“I think our culture is hard-working,” said Castracane. “We’re built on hard-work.”

The hard-work does come with its benefits. The intensity brought with it creates an atmosphere of competition, but also of enjoyment. This is an idea that is valued by the coaching staff, both for the benefit of the players but also for the benefit of the team.

“You’re playing your best hockey when it’s fun,” said Weiss. “We try to create a fun but serious atmosphere.”

This atmosphere fosters many benefits, but the biggest would be camaraderie. The players feel connected within the IU hockey family, and according to sophomore Will Gerami, that is due to the atmosphere and culture of the program.

“Being with all the guys at practice and games [creates chemistry] and then we also hang out outside of the rink, so there’s definitely a lot of chemistry there,” said Gerami. 

Freshman Leonardo Warner agreed with Gerami, saying that “it’s just like a family once you get to know [the players].” 

Home Ice

Frank Southern is not a normal hockey arena. Thirty minutes before game time, workers are shepherding people off the ice as the open-skate ends. The Zamboni quickly heads on to the ice, and only 15 minutes later, the players are warming up for the game.

The arena does have its benefits. Most games fill out the bleachers with avid fans and force many to stand along the walls. Its small size makes for a louder and more intense crowd, which players thrive off of. 

“[Frank Southern] definitely plays a big role,” said Castracane. “The fans are great behind the net, getting in the goalie’s head. It’s great to have them.”

Overall, Frank Southern may look tame on the outside, but the atmosphere within brings a serious home ice advantage. Weiss cannot stress enough the importance of the arena.

“It’s huge for our energy, and our guys feed off of energy,” said Weiss. “We play an exciting style of hockey where it’s up and down and hard, so when we can play with energy and we feed off of energy outside of the rink, whether it be music or fans, we really benefit from that.”

A Promising Future

Last year, IU were TSCHL tournament champions. On Feb. 12, IU reclaimed their title in a double overtime thriller over Ohio. For many players, this has been on their minds for the entire season, but there is still more to achieve.  

When asked back in January what they hoped the team accomplished during the season, Castracane and Warner mentioned becoming tournament champions. However, both agreed there were more ambitious goals in mind. 

“I hope we win a national championship this year,” said Castracane as Warner nodded his approval.