UCSB’s club ice hockey team was founded on the road, in a car, on the way back from a roller hockey tournament.

[media-credit name=”Matthew Snyder” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“We were just joking around,” senior Matthew Snyder said. “We knew there was no rink around.”

Snyder, a left wing and junior transfer from SBCC, hung up his ice skates in favor of rollerblades after high school because he had no other option. So did fellow senior center Bryce Welke, junior defender Jacob Wiskel and the five other members that made up the core eight of the team, which plays two home games at the closest rink in Oxnard on Friday and Saturday against Sacramento State.

“Every one of these kids … none of us ever thought we’d ever play ice hockey again,” Wiskel said. “We were all former ice players, just playing roller hockey because it was the only thing around.”

With no funds other than team dues, no place to play, no jerseys and no skates, the group of eight roller hockey players turned themselves into to a Division 3 club squad in a matter of months, equipped with a 16-man roster, a student coach and white home jerseys. They play their home matches at the Channel Islands Ice Center in Oxnard and hold a spot in the Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association.

“We were the only team out of the four [trying to get in] to get voted in unanimously,” Snyder said. “From there it was all advertising and trying to get people aware. Me, Jake, and a couple other guys … we just thought, ‘Let’s figure out what we have to do to make this a team.’”

I met Snyder and Wiskel outside the Isla Vista Starbucks on the type of warm November evening that reminds you why people like California. Snyder’s smaller than I expected him to be — listed at 5’9’’, 165 on the Web site that Welke created — and isn’t as ripped as you’d expect from a hockey player. Snyder’s a nice guy that knows the end game, asking me before we’re even seated if the article I’m writing is going to be “a front-page kind of deal.”

Wiskel, listed at 6’3’’, 190, looks much more like the stereotypical hockey player. He shows up a little later and lets Snyder do most of the talking, interrupting when Snyder claims the team could have tried procuring funds from Associated Students.

“I did,” he said, before adding that the team was “self-funded.”

“There’s no money from the school, no money from Rec Sports,” he said. “We’re trying to get a sponsor but it’s hard when you don’t have a rink near campus. You can’t convince Freebirds to put up a jersey when we’re playing that far away right now.”

Goleta is likely to soon be home to a new skating rink called Ice in Paradise, which will serve as the team’s new home once the project is completed. According to Campaign Director Ada Conner, as soon as the Greater Santa Barbara Ice Skating Association raises $6 million, the project will break ground. The group has raised $2.5 million so far since the land, located next to Girsh Park, was donated to the cause.

“I’m quite positive we will be breaking ground in 2011,” Conner said.

This season, the team has 10 more games to play. CSUN and College of the Canyons, both PCHA teams advanced to the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament last season. After three years as a self-funded club the team will be eligible to apply to become a team under UCSB’s Rec Cen Sports.

“The best thing about it is everybody’s amped on playing,” Snyder said. “That’s kind of what it is with guys that played ice hockey in high school, [especially] after high school if you’re not going to the show.”

Friday’s match, an exhibition against Sacramento State, begins at 9 p.m. Saturday’s official league match against the same team begins at 6:30 p.m. Although the time is not officially posted, Snyder expects a team-funded bus for fans from Isla Vista to leave at 5:30 p.m. for Oxnard.