University City

Focus rises at UNCC for 49ers hockey team

If you were to ask the average UNC Charlotte student their opinion on 49ers athletics, most would have something to say.

They might talk about the basketball team or the progress on the new football stadium. But not many of them would mention how the Charlotte hockey team is near the top of the standings in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

The 49ers sit atop the Carolina Division and play against such area teams as Appalachian State, Elon, The Citadel, Wake Forest and the College of Charleston.

"Each year we are getting a little more recognition, but for the most part I walk around campus in my track suit with our hockey logo and people either look at me funny or say they had no idea that we have a hockey team on campus," said 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior defenseman Jamie Roswell.

Roswell was born in Canada and moved to Elmira, N.Y., when he was in high school. After starring in the Gander Minor Hockey Leagues in New York, he had originally committed to play at Bowling Green University, but decided to come to Charlotte to play for the Junior B team, which he later found out had disbanded.

He loved the weather and the people of the South, however, and decided to stick around and play for the 49ers club hockey team.

"We don't like to say 'club team,' because we feel we are more than a typical club team," Roswell said.

"We put a lot of work into it and expect to get a lot out of it."

This season, his third on the team, Roswell was chosen as team captain. Through the first nine games, he had delivered three goals and six assists. He said being named captain was an honor he takes seriously.

"I have always thought of myself as a leader, and I like to help people get better," Roswell said.

"I like to give 110 percent to anything I do, and I am very goal-oriented. Being a captain lets me set goals for myself and my teammates and hopefully bring us to new heights."

Roswell started for the 49ers as a freshman and has been one of the team leaders from the beginning.

This year has been different from past years, and that is something he is happy about.

"In my three years here, I've really seen us grow as a team. We have a lot of guys who really love the sport and want to be here, so they put in the extra work. I think that has showed up on the ice this year more so than in the past," Roswell said.

"We have really good chemistry, and we work well together. We are a close team, and we try to get out and do things together and spend time off the ice."

The 49ers have had good seasons in each of the last three but are looking to finish with different results this time.

Two years ago they lost to Appalachian State in the division finals, and last year they made an early exit from the playoffs after losing to The Citadel.

Both times, Roswell said, Charlotte went into the games a little too confident and wound up bowing out early. This year, he said, the team is more prepared and is probably a better team than last year.

"A lot of our seniors and upperclassmen have been really working hard on getting the freshmen ready and showing them what it is like to play with us," Roswell said. "In the past, people stayed in their tight cliques and wouldn't help as much. This has been a fun and rewarding season so far."

It's not all fun, and the team puts in lots of practice time and tries to get better each day.

The 49ers practice three times a week, on average.

Two days they spend running and doing drills; they get one day of ice time.

Players get some scholarship money from the school, but they end up paying extra to cover travel, jerseys, equipment, ice time and other expenses. It is a dedicated group, bonded by their love of the sport.

Many on the team are originally from up north, including several from Canada and Massachusetts.

Roswell said he sees students walking around campus with NHL gear on and knows there are plenty of fans. It is hard getting the word out, though.

The team has put up flyers around campus and has a few hundred Facebook followers.

For their first game at the Extreme Ice Center, they had a good turnout, and now they have a faithful legion of fans.

"It is hard because I don't think people know we even have a team, and our games are Friday nights and at the rink or Time Warner Arena, and each of those are 25 minutes drive," Roswell said.

Once people come out once, Roswell said, they usually come back.

"We are a grinding type team that other teams don't want to play," Roswell said.

"We are aggressive and play with an in-your-face style that is hard to play against. We play well together."