24-2 UNM hockey team mixes academics, pucks, jobs - Albuquerque Journal

24-2 UNM hockey team mixes academics, pucks, jobs

Jarrod Ronquillo has recorded 32 goals and 40 assists this season for the 24-2 University of New Mexico hockey team that is ranked No. 5 in the nation among club teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Yet the 24-year-old, fifth-year senior, who has scored 132 goals overall on this team, would be the first to tell you the Lobos’ success isn’t solely because of him.

The Lobos, who close out the regular season with home games at the Outpost Ice Arenas against Dallas Baptist Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, are eager to reach unprecedented heights in the postseason. Four years ago, UNM finished with a No. 7 ranking, failing to advance out of its pool in the national tournament, yet beat top-ranked Michigan State in pool play.

This year could be a different story.

“We have three players Nick Weaver, Seth Payson and Zach Ganshaw who stayed with us in the summer and they had aspirations to go play NCAA. But they saw our team and they figured out that they wanted to stay,” Ronquillo said. “It’s a culmination of top players throughout New Mexico consolidating themselves in one spot. I don’t think that’s ever happened before in our program’s history. The last time we went to nationals was probably the closest we got, but I think this team is a lot stronger. I’m really excited when we go to nationals and the impact we’ll make.”

The Lobos will play in the Mid-American Conference tournament Feb. 11-13 in St. Louis for seeding into the ACHA national tournament, for which they already have qualified by virtue of their record and other metrics. They go back to St. Louis for the national tournament March 11-17.

UNM coach Grant Harvey, a former Lobo hockey player and captain (2009-13), said he initially wanted his team to avoid the conference tournament because as a club team each individual on the 20-player squad is responsible for travel costs. But Harvey said missing the conference tournament would have resulted in a forfeit and would be penalizing to their seeding in the national tournament.

Harvey, who said he does not coach on a salary or stipend, then asked the community for help, setting up a GoFundMe account (gofundme.com/f/unm-lobo-hockey-national-championship-tournament) with a goal of $16,000. Within a week, they surpassed the goal.

The Lobos continue to accept donations to help pay for additional fees for the extra practices during the postseason that weren’t originally factored into the goal, said Harvey, who works as a mortgage broker.

“I hate asking for money,” said Harvey, who is in his ninth year as coach. “I will do anything to avoid asking for a handout. But this isn’t really a handout. We just need a community boost.”

As part of its club status, UNM hockey depends on fundraising and some money from the Associated Students of UNM, Harvey said. The Lobos were granted $14,824 from the ASUNM to begin the season, which is the second-most among organizations to receive ASUNM money, said Ryan Lindquist, director of the student activities center.

The UNM hockey team has also requested additional money, $5,171 from ASUNM and $2,665 from the Graduate and Professional Student Association (because the UNM team has some graduate students), that could be approved in the coming days, Lindquist said.

The majority of the student-athletes on club teams like the hockey squad also work while handling their academics.

The hockey team usually practices on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, starting at 9:45 so as not to conflict with work schedules.

Ronquillo, who is in his first year of graduate school for chemical engineering, works at Los Alamos National Labs. He said he’s grateful that his supervisor understands the demand of playing on a successful hockey team.

The Lobos’ losses have come against No. 15-ranked Air Force (Jan. 8) and No. 3 Arkansas (Nov. 6), both by one goal. They have outscored opponents, 175-53.

Ronquillo wants to make the most of his final season with the Lobos. He’s from Minnesota, but his parents are UNM alumni and his mother Marleen (then-Romero) played as a libero for UNM’s volleyball team.

Ronquillo has found a home with the UNM hockey team.

“A lot of them played with each other throughout youth hockey,” Ronquillo said. “Chance Shanks has won three or four state titles with four or five other guys on the team. They’ve all been great friends. Getting to be a part of their lifelong friendships is pretty exciting. We’re like a happy family. We’re a really tight-knit group and that’s a key indication of our success so far.”

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