Game Changer: Tyler Cahanin

Age: Senior

Major: Construction Management Major

Hometown: Naperville, Ill.

Time on the team: Two years

Thoughts on the goal: “As cliche as it sounds, you dream about scoring a game winning championship goal since your parents tied your first pair of skates. It wasn’t the fanciest goal I’ve ever scored but the result was just as satisfying.

Thoughts on Nationals: "I feel optimistic about the tournament because I truly feel we can beat any team when we are at our best. Winning the Championship would be absolutely crazy.”

In a nail-biting overtime victory, the Illinois State roller hockey team defeated Kansas State in a 5-4 decision and qualified for the 2015 National Collegiate Roller Hockey Championships in Independence, Mo. this April.

Club president Dirk Bromberek was nervous during his first appearance at the regional championships.

“We had beat Kansas State before so I guess you could say we came out a little overconfident,” Bromberek said. “We had to battle our way back, which we’ve done before, but Kansas State is a better team and it’s not easy coming back from a team of that caliber. But we were able to fight and go into overtime which was huge.”

Team member Mario Cuevas had Nationals in mind while he and his team caught up to Kansas State.

“We were confident that we were going to go to Nationals,” Cuevas said. “We had a good regular season and we won our playoff game ... we were just ready to win and anxious to see what happened.”

When the Redbirds tied the score and sent the game into overtime, both teams were on the edge of their seats. Although Bromberek could not get a clear view of what happened, after only 10 seconds of overtime, there was no denying the Redbirds had won.

“It happened so fast,” Bromberek said. “I was halfway across the ice so I was seeing the play through everyone out there but the next thing I know I see Tyler (Cahanin) streaking from the side of the net with his hands in the air and I saw that we had scored.”

Thanks to an exhilarating overtime goal, the Redbirds will now travel to Independence, Mo. on April 8 in the hopes of bringing home the National Championship. There, they will face off against teams like Eastern Washington, UC Irvine and St. Joseph’s.

The team is preparing for its Nationals campaign by sticking to business as usual and making sure the team members are taking practices seriously.

Bromberek and Cuevas are both seniors and this trip to Nationals will be their last set of games as Redbirds.

“This is my third, and unfortunately, my final year and for me personally it’s a different trip because I’ve changed roles within the team ... But other than that it’s hard to say why it’s different because I’m just as excited,” Bromberek said.

While Bromberek attended the National Championships two years ago in his first year on the ISU team, this will be Cuevas’ first appearance.

“I definitely want to go out with a bang so this is going to be a lot of fun,” Cuevas said. “This year we came in and had normal expectations and a brand new team and wanted to see what happened and we had a great run and now we’re just excited to play.”

The team will spend April 8 to the 15 in Missouri and will first engage in pool play, which includes five pools of four teams each. After pool play, the top 16 teams will enter into a bracket tournament to battle it out for number one.

“It’s definitely interesting because not only do you get to play a bunch of teams and see different teams you’ve never played before but you get to meet new kids,” Bromberek said. “I’m definitely excited because it’s a great experience to be around so many players from across the country, but at the same time you do get nervous.”

When asked what winning the National Championship would mean to them, Bromberek was almost speechless.

“That thought has crossed my mind but not in depth,” Bromberek said. “I don’t even really know how to put it into words; it would be an amazing experience and I would be ecstatic. ‘Nationals or bust’ is our motto going into this.”

Cuevas shares Bromberek’s excitement, but is looking forward to taking the trip to Nationals one step at a time.

“Right now I’m really just worried about getting out of pool play and getting into the bracket and seeing where we go from there,” Cuevas said.

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