Last year, the club hockey team did not have a place to practice. This winter, the team has found an outdoor ice rink — Ralph Walker Skating Rink on State Street — as it hopes to re-establish its place at Yale.

After the renovation of Ingalls Rink in 2009, “The Whale” was no longer open past 10:30 p.m. as part of school-wide budget cuts. Among those affected by the changes was the club hockey team, which was told that it no longer would have team ice time at Ingalls after Winter Recess. With no ice time, the team never played a game last year and held just four practices total — none of them after the winter break.

“Varsity has the best ice times, then youth teams. Club and IMs fend for the scraps,” captain Patrick Ruwe ’11 said.

Club hockey can only skate at Ingalls after varsity home games on Friday and Saturday nights. This year, team leaders took initiative and sought practice ice off-campus at the Ralph Walker Skating Rink, which is about two miles away from central campus.

Though Walker is an outdoor rink, there is a roof over the ice. And while the ice quality is far from that of Ingalls because Walker must deal with the elements, most players said they find it sufficient for practice. No practices have been canceled due to snow.

“[The roof’s presence] means a lot of the weather and debris related problems you see with outdoor rinks aren’t really a problem,” said team member Harry Ross ’11. “It builds character.”

Tom Migdalski, the Director of Club Sports, said in an e-mail that he has kept in communication with the team to find out how Walker Rink has been working out.

“I’ve spoken with two of the team players recently, and they indicated that practices were going smoothly,” Migdalski said.

For transportation, the team depends on members with cars. Club hockey received $300 in funding last semester. They pay for ice time at Walker using an independent hockey fund supplied by an alumnus. Capitalizing on a New Haven resident discount, the team pays about $170 an hour to practice at Walker. Ruwe said that Ingalls did not charge the team and that the use of cars was another expense that the players had not previously had to cope with.

“At the end of the year, we will basically divide up those costs and have everyone pay dues so we don’t deplete that fund,” Ross said.

Both Ruwe and Ross expressed that they were glad to be back on the ice this year.

“Personally, I’m just happy to be back on the ice,” Ruwe said.

They currently have four games planned for the season, but Ruwe said they hope to add two to four more contests. But since the team was unable to join a league for financial reasons, the team is only able to play startup teams this year. They have two home games scheduled at Ingalls against Trinity and Eastern Connecticut State University.

“Because last year everything fell apart, this year we found ourselves in a rebuilding status,” Ruwe said.

He noted that individually scheduling games has been the most difficult this year and that the team consists mainly of freshman and sophomore players, something he said that bodes well for the team’s future.

The team started its season last weekend when it traveled to face Trinity, a game that the Bulldogs lost.

The club hockey team now practices from 10:15 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. Tuesday nights at Ralph Walker Ice Skating Rink.