Despite finishing the 2018-19 regular season at 24-7-1, the Boise State hockey team still believes they have room to improve. The Broncos’ optimism comes from a new look on the ice, as well as making some adjustments.
“A big thing for the culture of our team this year is taking the ‘club’ out of how we play the game,” said senior forward Eric Pinsky.
Though their sights are set on making Boise State’s hockey club a Division I program, a lack of funding will halt the Broncos’ plans of playing at such a high level. Instead, much of the Broncos’ attention will be geared towards coming back from a recent playoff failure.
Last season, the Broncos went into the Pac 8 Conference tournament in Southern Lake Tahoe as the No. 1 seed, before suffering a devastating 3-2 loss to the University of Oregon in a semifinal matchup.
The Ducks went on to win the tournament and played for a chance at a national title in Frisco, Texas. Even with a loss to Oregon, the Broncos gained the top seed going into the Western Regional tournament in Tempe, Ariz. With a second chance at qualifying for the National Tournament in Texas, Boise State lost on a last-second goal to the Montana State Bobcats.
“The difference in not losing those close games is being able to run four lines,” said head coach Lloyd Ayers. “We had about seven guys injured in that Montana State game, too, and that really hurt us.”
Even after losing seven forwards, the bright spot for this team will be its depth and defense. Boise State will certainly be taking advantage of its new additions.
“Compared to last year, we are amazing defensively and can even move some defensemen to forward, if we have to,” said junior goalie Kyler Ayers. “Last year, we were also really top-heavy and relied too much on our top two lines. This year, we are a lot more consistent all the way through.”
One exciting addition to the team is freshman forward Dustin Truex, who spent the previous season scoring 50 points in 36 games for the Fresno Monsters of the WSHL.
“Truex will definitely be a first or second-line guy for us,” Pinsky said. “Dustin has unbelievable speed and hits everything that moves. The depth that he’ll provide will be huge.”
According to Truex’s teammates, his role on the team has already begun to take shape.
“I was able to play Juniors with Dustin in Montana,” Ayers said. “He’s a spark plug that can get the game going if the team is playing stale.”
The Broncos will be returning five players named to all-conference honors last season, including leading goal scorer Pinsky, junior goalie Ayers, junior forward Mike Carranza, junior defenseman Brandon Benson and junior defenseman Sven Marnausz.
The beginning of this particular season has added an emotional impact for the Broncos, as they will be returning to the ice after suffering the loss of a teammate. Defenseman Bobby Skinner recently passed away on Aug. 23.
“You never saw Bobby without a smile on his face,” Lloyd Ayers said. “One of the best therapies for this team is getting on the ice and skating for Bobby.”
The Broncos will honor Skinner as a primary motivation for the team this season.
“I’m not sure how to describe Bobby other than the happiest kid I’ve ever met,” Pinsky said. “We’re going to be playing for Bob and hopefully we can win for him as well.”
Skating in Skinner’s memory, the Broncos will take on Western Washington in Bellingham, Wash. on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. PDT to kick off their 2019-20 season. Other notable upcoming matchups are against the back-to-back national champion Florida Gulf Coast University on Sunday, Oct. 6, and against the University of Oregon on Friday, Nov. 8.