Feb. 2, 2009

Like many collegiate hockey players, Jacob Cline began skating when he was very young. At the ripe age of eight, he was learning all the tricks of the trade and by age 11, was already playing competitive hockey, roller hockey that is. You see, Cline, a senior forward for the UMass Boston Men's Ice Hockey team, was originally a standout roller hockey player throughout his youth but now sports a Beacons' jersey on the ice. What makes this feat more than remarkable is the fact that Cline did not even step foot onto the ice until he was almost 19 years old.

Back during the summer of 2003, Cline was competing in a roller hockey tournament in Alpharetta, GA, not too far from his hometown of Atlanta, GA. After putting up great numbers throughout the weekend, Cline was approached by a coach with an interesting request. This coach wanted him to try out for his Junior ice hockey team, which would require Cline to do something he'd never done before, skate on ice.

"I'll never forget my first time on the ice," says Cline. "It was just before my 19th birthday and I was at the try out in Kansas City, MO. As stupid as it might sound now, I had to think so hard about what equipment to put on next while I was suiting up, but in the end, I made the team and haven't looked back once."

From that point on, Cline couldn't get enough of the ice. He decided to move up to Canada, just outside of Toronto so that he could be in hockey country and have a chance to skate every single day. He admits that at first it was different transitioning from rollerblades to skates, but the more he skated, the more natural it felt, to the point where now its second nature.

"I just ran with it. Everywhere I went I continued to do well, so that's when I knew I could continue to play on the ice and be successful at the next level. Once I stopped second guessing myself, the roller hockey game that I knew started to turn into ice hockey, and things just kind of clicked."

Cline acknowledges that although he might be a better roller hockey player, he still loves the game on the ice.

"When you're playing roller hockey, there's less room for error because its 4v4. The game is more offensively geared with fewer stoppages so it helps the offensive player in you come alive. Playing like that helps you become a better player on the ice as far as your rink vision goes, and it forces you to be smarter with the puck," said Cline.

Since joining the Beacons midway through the 2007-2008 season, Cline has been a solid contributor to the squad skating in 34 games while tallying three goals and 11 assists. In the final semester of his collegiate career, he hopes to go out on a positive note and help his team make a second half push towards a strong run in the ECAC Hockey East post-season.

"So far it's been a roller-coaster year but if you look at our record, we're underachieving, so it would be great to heat up right about now and carry that momentum into the playoffs. For the most part, we're a very young team and at times have played like it. We came out of the gates on fire and hit the ground running, but a different team came back after the winter break and we're still searching to return to our early season form."

After their first six games, the Beacons boasted a 4-1-1 record, the programs best start since the 1987-88 season when they opened 5-1-1, but since have found some hard times losing nine of 12 contests, six of the losses by a margin of only one goal.

"It's been tough," said Cline, "but we're not going to pack it in, not this team. We set our goal at the beginning of the season to finish in the top half of our conference, and with six league games left that is something we still have our sights on. We want to have home ice in the playoffs, so that is what we're going to continue to work hard towards achieving."

Following the season, Cline knows his collegiate hockey days will be coming to an end, but his hockey career is far from over. The Georgia native plans on playing in several roller hockey tournaments this summer and after that he says he'll do whatever it takes to continue to play, be it on or off the ice.

"I'm just going to ride the wave, and see where it takes me."