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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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Fresno State hockey club looks ahead at the season

The+Fresno+State+hockey+club+poses+for+a+picture+at+Gateway+Ice+Center.
Courtesy of Zach Ortiz
The Fresno State hockey club poses for a picture at Gateway Ice Center.

Starting this year, Fresno State’s club hockey team will be affiliated with the West Coast Hockey Conference (WCHC). 

The Collegian spoke with some players as the team prepares for its upcoming season.

Zach Ortiz serves as the president of the Fresno State Hockey Club and is also the team’s goalie. 

Ortiz is relatively new to hockey only having one year of experience, but he says that has been playing long enough to show improvements.. 

“If you saw me [on] day one as a goalie, I was terrible. But now I can actually stop the puck,” Ortiz said. 

Ortiz looks up to three NHL goalies. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins, two-time Stanley Cup champion Andrei Vasilevskiy from the Tampa Bay Lightning and rising star Jake Oettinger who plays for the Dallas Stars. 

For this first season, Ortiz said he is eager to see fans pack the Gateway Ice Center during home games and learn about the sport if they aren’t familiar with hockey.

“I’m mostly looking forward to seeing all the fans and Fresno coming together, not only for sports but also [for] something new and hopefully building a hockey community,” Ortiz said.

Nilen Peoples is a defenseman for the team and has been playing hockey since he was 8-years-old. He grew up playing for the Fresno Monsters youth hockey team. 

His favorite NHL players are Dustin Byfuglien, a defenseman who played 14 years in the league and was known for having a physical presence on the ice, and Joe Thornton, a forward who is widely considered to be one of the best playmakers in NHL history and had a distinguished 24-year career. Peoples admires Thornton due to his “leadership nature and passing qualities.”

The physical aspect of the game is what Peoples is most looking forward to for the upcoming season. 

“I’m most excited for physical hockey, pure excitement and seeing a lot of dedicated fans and students,” Peoples said.

Reagan Ceccarelli is a forward for the team and has been playing hockey for about 10 years. Both Ceccarelli and Peoples played on the club team in 2019, before it was officially affiliated with the school like it is now. 

Ceccarelli received high praise from Ortiz for being one of the team’s leaders. 

“He has been a great addition to our team and has stepped up with all of the players to make sure we obtain chemistry and confidence off and on the ice,” Ortiz said.

Ceccarelli is a big fan of Connor Bedard, the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Many of his teammates have even claimed that the two look similar. 

While Bedard has yet to make his mark in the NHL, Rick Nash, Ceccarelli’s favorite player growing up, sits in the top 100 all-time for goals with 437. 

Much like Ortiz and Peoples, Ceccarelli also looks forward to seeing fans show their support. 

“I’m most excited for the students to come show support for Fresno State hockey and a good physical style of play, laying the body every game,” he said. 

The team will begin its season on the road on Sept. 22 against Cal State Fullerton at Great Park Ice, then head back to Fresno for its home opener on Sept. 29 against Arizona Park University. Tickets are available on the teams website.

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