Southern Utah’s high school hockey team is back in action for the 2015-16 season, and the first home game is Saturday morning against Copper Hills.
The team grew up this year, moving together from junior varsity to varsity. They didn’t just grow up in age. They grew up in size, too.
“It’s amazing how everyone grew,” said Kerry Fain, team president for SUI hockey team and operator of The Glacier ice skating rink in Cedar City. “My own kids grew, but I didn’t notice it as much. It seems like everyone else got a foot taller.”
Southern Utah Independent played preseason games in Las Vegas and Provo, and two regular season games, leading up to their first home game Saturday morning. Aside from limited time at The Glacier this week, the players’ game minutes are the only ice time they’ve had so far.
“We just put down the ice last week,” Fain said. “Everyone is working hard even without ice. They’ve been scrimmaging on the black top at the high school.”
The snowstorm last week hit right after freezing The Glacier, Fain said, which is one of the quirks of having an outdoor ice skating rink. The players are more than happy to attend practice and clear the snow.
“They are absolutely excited to have their first home game,” Fain said. “The high school team is there every night to get the ice ready and practice, and they’re excited to see how big of a crowd they get at home. All of our games were away, but our crowds are still big.”
The team is coached by Kerry Fain’s husband, Chad Fain. Along with returning players, Southern Utah Independent has 13 new faces, and a few of those are thanks to recent move-ins. Wyatt Allred, an offensive player, moved to Cedar City from Tooele. He played hockey in Tooele for 10 years and fit right into the team in Cedar City when his family moved.
“I like it and haven’t had a problem,” Allred said. “These are cool dudes and don’t act like they know it all. It’s going to be really fun to play with them this year.”
Allred scored a pair of goals in the team’s game last Saturday. But playing outside is something else altogether, and it makes for a fun time, he said.
“It’s fun to play on an outdoor rink when it’s freezing cold. It’s a good experience,” he said. “It would be great if you guys could come and support us.”
Defenseman John Webster and his sister, Mary, joined the team this year after their family moved to Cedar City from Rupert, Idaho, in August. They played inline hockey in Idaho, and John said he and his sister wish they would have played on ice sooner.
“Both of us wish we could’ve been here earlier,” John Webster said. “This team is fun to play with. I don’t think I’ve met a more accepting group of kids since we moved here. It definitely felt like a team.”
They’re anxious to wake up bright and early Saturday morning to play against Copper Hills.
“We’re so excited and ready to play on our ice,” John Webster said. “I’ve played on an outside rink most of my life, so there’s not much to it, unless it starts snowing.”
Starting goaltender Nate Breinholt said the snow makes the ice “really weird” if it stays on it for too long. If it snows in the middle of a game, it doesn’t affect the play too much, but can be an annoyance.
Like his teammates, Breinholt said he’s excited to play and see how many fans show up to support the team.
“It will be a really exciting game,” he said. “They will get pumped up to watch us play, as well. We have some really good players so it will be fun to watch.”
Kerry Fain reminds all fans that if they plan on attending the game, dress warm. But since it is cold outside, hot chocolate and coffee is for sale. She said she hopes everyone will attend the game bright and early Saturday morning.
“It’s a very fast-paced game, physical and worth a watch,” she said. “These players put on some of the most enjoyable hockey I’ve seen in a long time. They work well together, especially for the amount of time they’ve had on the ice.”
The game against Copper Hills starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at The Glacier ice skating rink, 2090 W. Royal Hunte Drive, right behind the Cedar City Aquatic Center.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich. Call him at 435-674-6233.