Since 2008, Sub Zero has struggled on the national scene. In the years that followed the team from Minneapolis disappeared from national relevance, having to face the tough prospect of rebuilding twice. Finally last year the Snowmen won the Region, beating long-time rival Madison Club to make the trip back to Sarasota. Though they had returned, their Nationals campaign ended with only one win, leaving many to wonder whether it was a fluke or merely a stepping stone. This year too they are losing some familiar names, including Luther standout Ben Kofoed, former Hodag captain Evan Klane, a couple of long time veterans in Todd Owens and Mark Schmelze. Even with those departures, roster turnover was minimal giving the team a solid foundation from last year.
Sub Zero is captained by veteran players Dan McAdam, Kyle Gill, Tom Murray and former Sockeye player Sam O’Brien. For the first time a long while, they will be shoring up their roster with a lot of returners. In fact, only three players this year have never played Sub Zero before, which includes former CUT player Alex Evanglides, former Climax standout Pat Jensen, and Drag n’ Thrust’s Mike Peterson. Others they were able to persuade to return include Chain Lightning’s Grant Lindsley, Sockeye’s Julian Childs-Walker and Madison Club’s Ben Feldman. The Snowmen were also able to lure former players Jamison Beek, Shane Hoenstein and Drew Mahowald who have returned their extended absences. They even picked up Minnesota’s coach Charlie Reznikoff, who spent the last two years winning the Masters National Championship with Surly. The roster is jam packed with athletes, almost half the roster are All-Region players from college.
Even with a team as talented as they seem this year, two names standout. Luther’s Callahan nominee Eric Johnson and Lindsley will certainly cause more than a few headaches for opposing teams. Everyone wants to know, will we see them on the same line?
“Part of the fun of captaining a team like this is getting to play around with line combinations and seeing who plays well together. We don’t have anything set in stone but I think it’s quite safe to say that we will see a lot of Grant running down EJ’s hucks this year. And probably more of the opposite than people expect as well, given their respective strength’s at filling either role,” said captain Dan McAdam.
This isn’t the first time that Sub Zero has seen a very deep roster in terms of talent. In 2008 Sub Zero was cast with the best players around the region, but ended up losing in pre-quarters. This time around, McAdam and the team are better prepared. “I think the [2008 team] was the definition of an ‘all star’ team. We had the best players from all over Minnesota and Wisconsin and we knew it. That team worked extremely hard but I think when push came to shove, we weren’t enough of a ‘team’ to succeed when things got tough. If you look at the teams we lost to at Nationals that year (notably the GOAT loss in pre quarters) we were beaten by teams with strong identities and lots of experience playing together. The goal this year (since this is a true Minneapolis team now, not just a hodgepodge of good college players) for me is to build as strong a team identity as we can. I want this to be a great Sub Zero team, not just a bunch of great players who happen to wear the same jerseys.”
Last year the Snowmen’s only goal was to make it back to nationals. This year the team is recharged and ready to make a splash on the national scene. “We will be setting a goal of winning the region first and foremost, followed by a more ambitious goal at Nationals than last year,” said McAdam. “We had 20 or so Nationals rookies on last year’s team [which] meant we weren’t expecting to make a deep run. This year we don’t have a single player that hasn’t played at Nationals before and I think our ultimate goals will reflect that.”
So far Sub Zero has only participated in one tournament, the Surly Open in which they won handily against other teams from the Twin Cities. Last year the team competed in mostly tournaments close to home, but this year will travel outside of the Midwest by playing in two national caliber tournaments. They will participate in MUDI (Minneapolis), Emerald City Classic (Seattle) and the Chesapeake Invite (Maryland). McAdam knows Zero’s reputation has taken a hit in the last couple years, and even with a healthy new roster to play with, thinks this team is still an underdog in the national scene. “As far as I’m concerned we are underdogs until we get to Quarters or beyond again,” said McAdam.
The pieces are in place for them to make an extended run in at nationals with veteran leadership, athleticism and a team cohesiveness not possessed by Zero before. But ultimately, the potential of this team is unknown until they compete against other national caliber teams. McAdam is well aware that this teams potential is great, but knows success is not guaranteed. “We certainly can’t expect success to just happen this year, and I don’t think that any of our guys do. I think we all know how hard we need to work to achieve our goals.”
Sub Zero is a team that has been bipolar the last few years, from quarters in 2007, to falling flat in 2009, and regaining a semblance of relevance in 2011, but only winning one game at nationals. 2012 is mystery, but an optimistic one. Zero has never possessed this kind of talent or veteran savvy. Though club is played in the dog days of summer, the national scene will feel a cold chill blowing from the north, reminding them of the sigil from the Starks of Winterfell. Winter is coming.
Feature photo by Brandon Wu (UltiPhotos.com)