Though Milwaukee would not be considered a hockey town, its proximity to other cities with hockey tradition and the presence of the AHL Milwaukee Admirals help the sport maintain a following.
And then there’s the Marquette club hockey team.
The team features 23 students whose love for the game — not a Division I scholarship — prompted them to keep skating into their college years in the Silver North Division of the Mid-America Collegiate Hockey Association.
For some players the club team was an incentive to attend Marquette.
“Part of why I chose Marquette is because they had a team that I could play for and have fun,” sophomore forward Kevin Dolan said. “The last few years I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie, and we’re really a big group of friends.”
Team vice president and junior defenseman Anthony Fabris said the club has grown in leaps and bounds since his freshman year.
“During my freshman year we would get one fan bus that we would, maybe, fill for big games,” Fabris said. “By the end of last season we had to leave some fans behind with two full buses, and we were able to fill three for this season’s home opener.”
Though Fabris admitted that playing in a non-hockey town can be tough, he considers it as an advantage in attracting fans.
“The plus side is that we have less competition with professional teams,” Fabris said. “If we played in Chicago most fans would follow the Blackhawks over their college team, but here I feel like, along with the Admirals, we are the hockey focus of Marquette.”
The team faces other club teams from around the Midwest and even some Division III programs like Northern Illinois, Iowa and Iowa State. Among these schools, team president and senior goalie Richard Bennett said Marquette has the strongest fan base.
“Some teams we play don’t even have fans,” Bennett said. “A lot of times just the parents of the guys playing show up.”
As captain, Bennett oversees nearly all aspects of running the team, from organizing road trips and practices to purchasing ice time.
“The toughest thing is probably getting everybody on the same page,” Bennett said. “When we’re traveling or practicing all 23 of us have different schedules, and it can be pretty challenging at times.”
The Golden Eagles played their first home game at the Ponds of Brookfield (2810 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield, Wis.) Friday night against Chicago-Loyola in front of a near-capacity 200 fans.
Marquette trailed for most of the contest, but Marquette junior Will Jurgensen scored twice in the third period to tie the game at three goals and send it to overtime. Loyola scored the game-winner a few minutes into the extra period.
Saturday’s game against the Ramblers proved to be more offensive than the first but yielded the same outcome, as Marquette lost 10-7 despite a hat trick from freshman forward Tyler Schwichtenberg.
The Golden Eagles hope crowds will continue to fill the Ponds for their next home stand against Iowa, Oct. 28 and 29.