Butler hockey turning fortunes


BUTLER TWP — Running, pulling sleds, lifting weights ... it’s all about hockey? 

It has been for Butler. 

And it’s paying off. 
The Golden Tornado are off to a 5-4 start this season in the PIHL. They were 5-37 over the past two years and entered this season having lost 31 of their previous 33 games. 
“Coming off a streak like that, quite frankly, these guys were sick of it,” first-year Butler assistant coach Ian Hammonds said. “They want to be that Cinderella story.” 

Butler’s hockey players spent much of the summer in the weight room, doing some running — and pulling sleds. 
“We put 25-pound weights on the sleds and had to pull them around,” junior center Troy Double said. “We did stuff like that two or three times a week. 
“It was different, but it’s paying off.” 
Former Butler defenseman Mike Guentner is in his first full season as the Tornado’s varsity head coach. 
His immediate goals were to finish above .500, reach the playoffs and have a team grade-point average above 3.0. Butler is in position to achieve all three. 
“Our success on the ice has come from what we’ve been doing outside of the rink,” Guentner said. “It’s been a big plus establishing the culture of being a gritty hockey team. Everything we do is gritty. 
“To get results, we have to be gritty, especially against the highly skilled teams. We have to do the things our opponents aren’t willing to do.” 
Like summer conditioning. 
While Butler’s players were going through intense summer drills as a team, most of the other PIHL squads weren’t even organized yet. 
“All of that early work provided bonding time for these guys, too,” Hammonds said. “This group of players is very close. I’ve never seen a bunch of guys wanting to play for each other like this.” 
Like Guentner, Hammonds is a former Butler hockey player himself. He graduated in 2000. 
“We had talented players back then, but we didn’t mesh as a team,” Hammonds said. “The chemistry wasn’t there. But it is now.” 
Double has 10 goals and 13 points, centering a line with Matt Tomasovic and Jake Campbell. Tomasovic has six goals and 11 points. 
Tanner Gilliland is ninth in the PIHL in scoring with nine goals and 20 points. His linemates — Nick Whann and Tony Harpel — have combined for five goals and 11 assists. 
“We all work well together,” Double said. “Tanner and I double-shift a lot. I don’t know how many minutes we’re logging, but it’s up there. 
“Our whole team has built up stamina, though. And when you get along with everybody on the ice, it makes a difference.” 
The Tornado’s defensive corps of Jon Fair, Dalton Scott, Tyler Hensel, Chris Campbell and Justin Wehrli “are all savvy and versatile players,” Guentner said. 
Butler has a goaltending tandem of Clay Bachman and Logan Rothbauer. Bachman has a goals-against average of 3.40 and a save percentage of .910. Rothbauer has a GAA of 4.50 and a save percentage of .851. 
“We’re confident with either one in there and we want to ride the hot hand,” Guentner said. “So when a goaltender wins, he keeps playing until he loses.” 
After not even having a varsity team a few years ago, Butler hockey has become relevant in PIHL Class AAA again. 
“This is a talented group of guys who are a year older now and have adjusted to the speed of the game at the varsity level,” Hammonds said. “Fair, Scott, Bachman and Whann are newcomers who have made an impact. 
“State College blew us out early in the year, then we played them again and won, 4-1,” Hammonds added. “It’s all about hard work at this level. The team that works the hardest, wins. 
“That’s why I like our chances down the road.”