CU Denver students and Milo the Lynx cheer for the men's hockey team in a game at Pepsi Center
CU Denver students and Milo the Lynx cheer for the men’s hockey team in a game at Pepsi Center

For the second time in its short history, the CU Denver men’s club hockey team skated to a 4-1 result at the Pepsi Center. This time, however, the Lynx were on the winning side of the scoreline.

CU Denver soundly defeated the Fort Lewis College Skyhawks in front of about 200 fans on Friday afternoon. Back in their debut season in 2011, the CU Denver hockey men played a homecoming game at Pepsi Center, falling 4-1 to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

So, the Black and Gold enjoyed a measure of redemption, with the added bonus of now having their own official name — the Lynx — on their jerseys along with a rambunctious mascot, Milo the Lynx, and rowdy cheerleaders in the stands. They also got to watch the Colorado Avalanche defeat the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday evening.

Gordon Nytes, team captain and founder, said it’s “awesome” to represent CU Denver hockey on such a big stage. “I think we were all feeling butterflies before we hit the ice,” Nytes said. “Everyone circles this game on the calendar whenever we play at the Pepsi Center. We all know how important it is to get the ‘W’ in a game where so many fans, family members, and faculty come out.”

CU Denver men’s hockey vs. Fort Lewis College

Raul Cardenas, associate vice chancellor of student affairs, dropped the ceremonial first puck. Staying for the game, Cardenas liked what he saw as the Lynx improved to 2-2 on the season. “It was awesome. We sold a lot of tickets, and I think it’s just the beginning,” he said.

Still part of the team since its 2011 founding are Nytes and club faculty sponsor Greg Cronin, associate professor, Integrated Biology. Cronin noted that the hockey team played a key role in the launching CU Denver’s Club Sports program and spurring the effort for a CU Denver-distinct mascot. “Once we started a team, it became ‘What do we call ourselves?'”

The hockey team led what is now a burgeoning Club Sports program in the Office of Student Life at CU Denver. The program has grown to eight teams with three more planned to start next spring, said Brett Lagerblade, the program’s first official manager.

He said most of the CU Denver hockey players are from the Denver area, so getting the chance to play at the Pepsi Center, home of the NHL’s Avalanche, is something they dream about. “It’s a dream come true, so they were thoroughly satisfied,” Lagerblade said. “Regardless of the score, they just enjoyed every minute of it.”

Cronin said club sports have “come along way in a couple of years” at CU Denver. Now, with the hiring of Lagerblade and the establishment of student-athlete handbooks and a cohesive club sports structure, the university’s athletic opportunities continue to make great strides.

‘Identity being formed’

“It is awesome,” said Nytes, who remembers sitting at a table on campus with a homemade sign that said, ‘CU Denver Hockey Sign-up.’ “Now I look up and there are signs everywhere about new club sports programs being started. … I can definitely see an identity being formed among the students of CU Denver that was not present before athletics came into the picture. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens to this university in the next decade.”

On Saturday, the newly formed men’s soccer team hosted the first-ever CU Denver outdoor home game in any athletic competition. The Lynx lost 3-2 to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in front of 40 spectators, who enjoyed a pancake breakfast before kickoff.

Also last weekend, the CU Denver women’s volleyball team hosted a 12-team tournament in the Auraria Gymnasium.

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