Players keep their heads in the game despite coach’s dismissal to end the season on a positive note
The CU men’s varsity club ice hockey team still had the chance to conclude the season positively following the dismissal of head coach Jeff Eaton.
Despite the obstacles, the Buffs competed in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II National Championship Tournament, which began on March 7 and took place in Fort Collins. The team finished with a tournament record of 2-1.
“I think we played well considering the circumstances our team was under,” senior captain Matt Ridens said. “Obviously it creates a distraction, but we really can’t be upset with the way we played given the situation.”
Ridens tallied two assists in the tournament.
“We had a meeting the day before the tournament to tell the guys that what happened was unfortunate but we needed to stay focused and move on,” Ridens said. “We really had to come together as a team and work hard. Making excuses was not going to help us, and I think everyone had that mind set going in to the tournament.”
The team did not have very much time to dwell on the matter, said assistant captain Jason Miller.
“It happened so close to nationals that we really could not sit there and ponder it, and I think we moved on as fast as we could,” Miller, the freshman defenseman, said. “It was a wake up call because the captains really had to step up as leaders and get the guys behind us.”
The team opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Wagner College on March 7. Miller scored two goals in the victory.
CU’s lone loss came at the hands of Central leader and tournament favorite Davenport University. Davenport defeated the Buffs 7-2.
“We struggled on the power play against Davenport, and our penalty killing really hurt us also,” Ridens said. “I think we were shorthanded a lot, and it was a back-breaker.”
Davenport scored five power play goals in the contest.
“They have a lot of speed, and we had not seen that kind of speed all year long,” Miller said.
Davenport advanced from pool D on to the semifinal round and defeated Eastern Washington University. Davenport then moved on to the championship game but suffered an overtime loss against Michigan State.
The Buffs concluded the national championship tournament by beating New York University 6-5, despite a 1-4 deficit during the second period.
“To come back the way we did against NYU was wild, and it was really important to the seniors to win that last game,” Ridens said.
Ridens is one of five graduating seniors on the team this year.
“Nobody wanted to finish the season on a sour note with a loss,” he said.
General manager Everett Pfeiff took Eaton’s place on the bench for the tournament. Pfeiff said he does not think losing this year’s senior class will dramatically hurt the team next season.
“Each year there are a number of incoming students who communicate (their interest in playing) with the club,” Pfeiff said. “We also have a lot of youth on the team, and they gain additional experience each year, which will help us improve. Carrying the momentum and experience from this year will help us a lot.”
This is the second consecutive year the division II team has earned a top 10 ranking in the nation.
“Making it to nationals is a win in itself,” Miller said. “The team is a little disappointed with the results, but we have a great core of guys coming back next year that will bring the winning attitude that we need to be successful.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Corey Jones at email@example.com.
- Men's hockey team prepares for championship tournament
- Men's hockey defeats Cornhuskers
- Men's hockey team knows how to win
- CU snowboard team qualifies for national tournament
- CU women's basketball advances to second round of Big 12 Championship with win over Texas Tech