Story by Sam Bell, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Andris Visockis
While most of the community was on spring break, the Aquinas Men’s Hockey team was hard at work playing for both the MCHC and National Title for DIII.
The men started their postseason playing for the MCHC Title. They started their quest on February 26, defeating Calvin College 5-3. In the Finals, the Saints took a tough loss to the Oakland University Grizzlies, 5-4.
This wasn’t the end of the season, however. For the first time in the team’s history, they made it to the National tournament, which took place right on their home ice at Southside. They were one of 16 teams that punched a ticket to Nationals.
In their first matchup of pool play, the Saints took on the University of Tampa. Led by player of the game Sophomore Billy Warren, the Saints took a 4-2 victory over a very offensively fit Tampa team.
For game number two, Aquinas took on the Rams of Colorado State University. Senior Doug Zelenka took the player of the game honor in this one, easily defeating the Rams, 6-0.
In their third and final game of pool play — a game in which they had to tie or win in order to make it to the Frozen Four — the Saints pulled out a huge 3-2 victory over Fairfield University. First-year Austin Kuch led the Saints to victory, scoring two of the team’s three goals in the game.
These three wins put the guys in the frozen four, where they faced off against our neighbors on the beltline, Calvin College. The Saints won this matchup 6-1, with goals from Junior Corey Giffel, First-year Nathan Aloisio, senior Matt Krzykwa, sophomore Calvin Wojtaszak, Zelenka and Sophomore Dominic Fusco, as well as a nice defensive night for Junior Goaltender Sean Schmeiser. This sent this to the national championship, once again facing the Grizzlies of Oakland University.
For the Championship game, it was a rematch of the Vezina Cup that took place just two weeks prior. With a game that was mostly defensive, with a lot of great saves by goaltenders Schmeiser and Gagnon, the Grizzles opened up the scoring with a goal from captain Robert Lauro 15:27 into the game. Looking ahead to the second, the Saints knotted up at one, courtesy of Wojtaszak with 9:33 left in the second period. This was short lived, however, when Oakland’s Matthew Stirling got one past goaltender Schmeiser.
Moving ahead to the third and final period, it was nothing short of a spectacular finish. Oakland started off scoring for the third, making it 3-1. Aquinas was able to capitalize on the power play just four minutes later, bringing them within one. Coming down to the nitty gritty, Oakland was able to score two clutch goals, making the score 5-2. The Saints weren’t giving up that easily, however, putting one in with 2:12 left in the contest. This is how the game would end, unfortunately, with the Grizzlies winning the National Title, 5-3.
Although the boys didn’t bring home the title, they still have a lot to be proud of, making to the Finals in both the MCHC tournament and the National tournament. The Aquinas community can’t help but be proud of the way the guys played this season, and look forward to what next season has in store.
About the writer…
Sam Bell is a sophomore from Mackinaw City. She played three sports in grade school, including basketball, volleyball, and softball. Outside of reporting on sports, Sam enjoys listening to music, hanging out with her friends, and with her cat, Oliver. She is a Psychology and Community Leadership major and is considering Sports Journalism.