Arkansas Hockey Takes Next Step With Jump To Division One

SPRINGDALE (KFSM)--Brian Gallini is a law school professor from the North. In his spare time, he's accepted one of the most ambitious challenges: bring hockey to the Natural State.

"Simultaneously what intimidates some people but what attracted me to this position, was the opportunity to build a program where hockey's never been. You know, it's like walking on the moon," Gallini said.

"I like doing difficult things, and obviously starting a hockey program in Arkansas is difficult," said senior James Haddock.

Arkansas has three ice rinks in the state including the Jones Center in Springdale, where the Razorbacks play their home games. Eight years ago when the team was founded, the initial perception was not very promising.

Gallini remembered, "The very very beginning, most commonly, I got 'I had no idea we had a hockey team'."

"Sometimes it's like 'Oh we had a hockey team? I didn't know that'," Collin Young said.

"We don't want the 'Arkansas oh wow hockey team' anymore. We want everybody to know we have a hockey team," senior Jacob Brown said. Arkansas plays in the WCHL (Western Collegiate Hockey League) after jumping up to Division One last season. The Hogs had a successful campaign, and finished the season ranked #21 in the nation. But with a much younger team this year, it's been a struggle.

"We're still in that transition, but I'm incredibly proud of the group," Gallini said.

"The jump to division one has really gotten a lot of interest from people on campus," Matt Robinson said. The coaching staff has set a goal to make the ACHA national tournament within five years of joining the top division.

"I just try to keep perspective that it's one brick at a time, that houses aren't built overnight. You know we are a football and basketball state and I accept that, but there's no reason we can't be football, basketball and hockey," said Gallini.