'15 men, one heartbeat'

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February 21, 2011

Bradley Club Hockey Coach Kyle Steel received a flood of e-mails and phone calls from proud alumni after the Braves won the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association Silver Division championship Sunday. One note in particular brought the turnaround season into stark perspective.

“When one of our alums asked me in early October if we were headed for the championship, I told him, ‘Last year, we had great players. This year, we have the team,’” said Steel. “He wrote to me yesterday and said, ‘You were right.’”

Turning great players into a winning team took Steel less than one year. Coming off a losing season, the team reported for fall training earlier than usual and Steel stepped up the intensity on the ice by raising the work ethic off the rink. More workouts, higher expectations, and a sense of team over self brought the Braves their first MACHA title and the sixth championship in the club’s 44-year history.

The 3-2 win over Purdue University in Sunday’s championship game gave Bradley a 21-8 record for the year, success that sophomore captain Walter Schall attributes to the cohesiveness inspired by Steel’s motto: 15 men, one heartbeat.

“He feels the heartbeat of the team, and when the time is right, he pulls the right string by putting us in the situations where we’re going to excel,” Schall said. “On Sunday, he made the right decisions and let everyone play his role. When we need a goal, he knows just who to send out to make it happen.”

Off the ice, Schall said the players are just regular Bradley students who love hockey. Bradley gives them the opportunity to continue a beloved pastime while preparing academically for life beyond the sport.

“For most of us, this is the end of the line when it comes to hockey,” Schall said. “I tell recruits that nothing is better than coming to a top-notch school, getting the best education you possibly can, and playing the game you love.”

During the off-season the team will welcome a new crop of prospective players to Bradley to tour the Hilltop, work out with the team, and discover a winning program supported by decades of alumni and a proud campus community.

“Everyone is already asking me if we’re going to repeat the championship next year,” Steel said.

He’s reserving judgment for now, but if history repeats itself, he’ll know the answer by early October.