By: Monica Segura
Monica is an undergraduate student at Ole Miss majoring in English.
When the Ole Miss hockey team takes the ice at the national tournament this week in Springfield, Missouri, they’ll have a secret weapon playing with them in the person of Léo Cuzin, who is an international player from France.
Cuzin began playing the sport at the early age of four, and with the passing of time, dedication and effort, he is now considered to be one of the best players on the team and a key component of the Rebels chances of winning at nationals.
Most teams recruit the players they want to come play for them, but in the case of the Frenchman, it was Cuzin who made first contact with the Ole Miss Hockey team.
“Léo contacted us through our website saying he was interested in coming to Ole Miss for a year, ” recalls Ole Miss Hockey Recruiter Colin Knight. “He said he was coming over seas for a year as part of his schooling in France and Ole Miss was one school he was interested in. With us having a hockey team, it made his decision easy because he said he wanted to continue playing the game he loves so much while over in the states”.
In the summer of 2012, Cuzin arrived with great expectations about his studies and the Ole Miss hockey team. The selection process came about during the first week of the semester. “We had two days of tryouts with around forty players,” Cuzin remembers. “We were split into four teams, and we scrimmaged against the others. Then the coach made his choice and announced the roster for the season, and I was selected”.
When Head Coach Kristian Skou saw Cuzin play, “My first thoughts of him as a player was that he’s a” typical “European player, meaning he had good speed, good hands, and was able to create space for himself. Also, I was very impressed how he adapted to North American life and rules. He always is in good spirit and accepts the American culture for better or worse, and that’s hard to do as I’m sure you’d agree. ”
Fans will know soon if Cuzin has the right stuff to help his adopted team win on the ice. At 16-10-1 overall and 9-4-1 in the SECHC, Ole Miss begins play today in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) Men’s Division III National Tournament held at the Mediacom Ice Park in Springfield, Missouri. The Rebels are grouped into pool A against Colorado State with game time set for 4 p.m. CDT. On Wednesday, the Ice Rebels face Farmingdale State at 9:15 a.m. and on Thursday, the team will finish pool play against Adrian Gold at 1:00 p.m.
To advance to Friday’s semi-finals, the Rebels must win their pool play to take on the winner of pool B at 12:30 p.m. The final game for the national championship takes place on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
As Cuzin says, “It’s not just a great group of players, but also a great group of guys. They helped me find my place here at the beginning even though it has been really easy to fit in. And even if we lack consistency at times, when we’re at our best we can achieve great things just like we did during Regionals “.
The team is expected to show there agility, speed and good team work on the rink in order to achieve the goal, which is to win Nationals.
Even though the sport is not very popular in the South, the good performance of the players has shown that Ole Miss Hockey Team can increase their visibility as one of the representatives of the Southern states, “I think the team can have pretty amazing results if we work hard and everybody’s playing at his best” affirms Cuzin.
“We are thrilled to be going to Nationals and are privileged to represent our conference. This is the best team to ever play hockey for Ole Miss and Léo has been a big part of that. We are preparing or Nationals just like we have been going about our business all year,” Knight said. “We take it one game at a time, we practice hard and we go out and play the game we love. Play it hard, represent Ole Miss with pride and have fun. Léo has been a great asset to this team and has taken everything in stride. On the ice he is our leading scorer and a leader off the ice he does everything right, makes all team events and has helped Ole Miss Hockey grow. Leo is a big reason why we have made it as far as we have, going to our national tournament, and it has been a pleasure coaching and knowing him”.