Some people live to work. Others work to live. The NMU Club Hockey team has to employ both philosophies; putting in over forty hours of work on and off the ice every week since August, just to be able to play the game they love.
"When you first join club hockey, we always ask every year, 'Are you willing to put in this kind of commitment?' because it really is a big commitment," said Evan Weber, a senior defenseman from Eagle River, Wisconsin.
As non-scholarship student athletes, the $2,200 league fee falls on their lap, which doesn't include things like sticks, gloves, skates, helmets or meals. They even have to pay just to tryout.
"I have to work over forty hours a week just to pay for hockey," said Shane Feehery, a senior majoring in management from Homewood, Illinois.
Add in the fact that they have to maintain a certain GPA to stay eligible and you have, what amounts to, a full-time job.
"You have to be able to study between classes, here and there, little bits a time," Weber noted.
"It kind of gets to be a bit of burden late at night, but it's something you've got to do," Feehery added.
Their league, the American Collegiate Hockey Association, or ACHA, has 450 teams worth of motley, top tier talent, searching for a way to channel their passion.
"There's a lot of kids looking and they don't know maybe where to go. And a certain age, a certain point in their career, they're told, 'The NCAA isn't an option for you. You're just not going to get there.' Those are the kids that are on the fence, those are the kids we want here playing ACHA hockey," explained Coach Carl Trosien.
Players like Evan Weber have been skating since they could walk.
"You just never want to stop, especially at a competitive level," Weber added.
And this year they have been extremely competitive thanks to a revamped coaching staff.
Coach Carl Trosien has made a sea change in the program, compiling a 33-4-2 record in only his second year. But he'll be the first to tell you, he couldn't do it alone; subscribing to the mindset that three heads are better than one.
"You can stay on them when there's three of us. It's easier to fix what's going wrong, systems wise or player development wise," Trosien echoed.
Every night the three coaches are able to sit down and make decisions together, as a unit. Their combined effort, along with talent like Wolff and Neeco Belanger, who have 98 points, 46 goals and two national championships between them, has led to their first Regional Playoff berth in club history.
"It's been our goal, I think, from my first season to get to regionals. It'd be nice to go to nationals, but I'm happy right now," Feehery said smiling.
And given that most of their talent will return next season and will have had another year to soak up the organization, structure, and tradition Coach Trosien and his staff have put into place, there's no doubt they will be back in the playoff picture for years to come, regardless of Saturday's result against Michigan State.