The Keene State College Men’s hockey team spent their spring break in Columbus, Ohio, competing for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 2 National Championship.
The Owls finished their season with a solid (14-5-2) record. The offense was anchored by Andrew Pierce (42 points), Kurt Mitchell (34 points) and Kyle Carignan (28 points). Carlin Testa was a rock in goal all season, sporting a 10-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
KSC competed in the regional tournament and defeated Roger Williams University in the first game. With that win, they met their rival Northeastern University, and the winner of that game would punch a ticket to Columbus. Keene overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period and won in overtime, thanks to Tucker Johnson’s goal. The Owls made the 11-hour trek to Ohio and had matchups against Liberty University (Virginia), Williston State College (North Dakota) and Lindenwood University (Illinois).
In their first game, they faced off against Liberty. The Owls started off with a quick goal from Mitchell just 25 seconds into the game. Unfortunately, this was the only lead they would have in the game. The Flames went on to score four goals to build a three-goal lead. The Owls would claw back within one as Derek Clark scored two goals. The Flames added an empty net goal to put the game out of reach as the final was 5-3 in favor of Liberty. The Owls’ second game had them facing off against the top seed Williston State College. The first period had both teams deadlocked at one. The KSC goal came off Pierce’s stick.
Keene went up 2-1 in the second period, as Mitchell finished a pass from Clark. The Tetons managed to tie the score, but the Owls regained the lead. The Tetons would go on to score four straight goals and would win the game 6-3.
The Owls were eliminated from advancing at this point, but still had one game to play. They faced off against the Lindenwood Lions. The Owls struck first as Cooper Hines unleashed a rocket from the top of the circle that found its way into the back of the cage. The Lions tied the game at one, but the Owls quickly regained the lead with a power play goal courtesy of assistant captain Andrew Karlin.
Lindenwood tied the game once more, but this was the final goal that would elude Owls’ keeper Jon Fields.
Pierce scored what turned out to be the winning goal less than a minute into the third period. Josh Bell doubled the Owls’ lead with a goal of his own a few minutes later. Carignan made it 5-2 after he tapped home a pass from Pierce. The final goal came courtesy of Adin Sobel. He made a move on the goalie after receiving a pass from Ricky Panton.
“This was the best group of guys I’ve ever played with. From the get-go, the rookies fit right in and we were a team in every aspect of the word. The coaching staff was phenomenal and put us in a position to succeed all year long,” Pierce said.
He continued, “We started the season off absolutely electric and went 10-0-1 in our first 11 games. We had a swagger about us that we were better than every team we played. I believe that was a huge contributor to our nationals push late in the season. Going back to nationals for the second time was our goal at the beginning of the year and an incredible accomplishment for us. We didn’t get the outcome that we had hoped for, but we built on the previous year which is a positive. And finally, I want to the thank my family, my grandfather, coaches and especially my teammates.”
Austin Sanidas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org