The Keene State College men’s hockey club team was unable to put one in the win column during the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) men’s Division II National tournament this past weekend.
After earning a spot in the tournament with an overtime goal in the regional finals, the Owls were unable to repeat the same type of heroics on the national stage. KSC dropped each of their three games, the worst of which came against Florida Gulf Coast in a 11-1 lopsided loss.
However, Keene was the first to score in the matchup, with Kurt Mitchell getting the puck to the back of the net just over a minute into the first period. The Owls were down 2-1 after the first 20 minutes.
FGCU then went on to score nine more unanswered goals and the Owls wouldn’t be able to score again until the next day in a must-win game against the Arizona St. Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils burned up the Owls’ ticket to the semifinals with a 6-1 win, which saw physical style of play, and a lot of penalties. Even after being statistically eliminated from the tournament, the Owls had one more game to play against Michigan State University.
The Owls managed to come back from a 7-2 deficit to make it a 7-6 game in the third scoring three powerplay goals. However, the Owls still lost 9-6 to cap off their trip to Pennsylvania.
Head coach Bobby Rodrigue commented on the experience, “The scores were pretty tough, obviously we would’ve liked to have better results but I think the experience was great for our guys,” Rodrigue said.
Senior team captain Andrew Pierce said that making the national tournament in-and-of itself makes for a successful season, especially after starting the 2015-2016 season with a 1-4 record.
“A lot of guys started booking Spring Break trips,” Pierce said, “We just started winning big games and after that [it was] a snowball effect.”
Pierce and Mitchell emphasized the fact that their team has consistently met its goals year after year, building on the success they had the year before.
“I feel like every year our goal just increases. We wanted to go to NECHA’s (Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association), we got to NECHA’s. The next year, we wanted to get to regional’s, we got to regionals. Year after that, we wanted to go to national’s, we got to national’s. I feel like every goal we set we just keep achieving,” Mitchell said.
Rodrigue concurred with his players and said that he doesn’t want the tournament appearance to be a one-time deal.
“Everybody talks about going to the national tournament as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For a lot of those teams there it’s not and for us we don’t want it to be,” Rodrigue said.
In the offseason Rodrigue said his team will be working on strength and conditioning workout regimens while he searches for the next generation of Owl hockey players to help the team make it over the next hump.
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