Story by Samantha Bell, Sports Editor
Image courtesy of aqsaints.com
After winning their first National Championship last season in their fifth year as a varsity squad, the Aquinas men’s hockey team has one thing in mind: repeat what they accomplished last season and raise another banner at Southside Ice Arena.
The Saints started their journey back to Nationals against conference foe Rochester College. In game one the men were led defensively by freshman Roman Malkov, who had 28 saves in the goal in his debut with Aquinas. On the offensive side, goals courtesy of freshmen Will Kortz, Dawson Ellingworth and Kyle Truax solidified a 3-2 victory.
In game two against Rochester the Saints came out in full force, routing the Warriors 9-1. Junior Connor Matulaitis, sophomore Spencer Graham and senior Jason Wrbelis all came away with two goals apiece and Malkov recorded his second victory as goalie in the effort.
The men met their match in Grand Valley, however, and played two hard fought games that resulted in a loss and a tie. In game one, which took place at Georgetown Ice Arena, both teams displayed the grit and talent that carried them deep into the playoffs last season. In the end, two Aquinas goals courtesy of junior Austin Kuch and freshman Trent Kulczyk were not enough to get the victory, as the Lakers took a 3-2 victory.
Game two against the Lakers was a fight to the finish, both literally and figuratively. In a game that saw several fights, 13 penalties and one Grand Valley player disqualified, both teams came away with a 1-1 tie in the record books.
The Saints then took on Eastern Michigan University in two hard fought games that resulted in a win and a loss. In game one, the team’s stellar defensive shone through as freshman goaltender Nick Ottenbacher recorded 34 saves and a shutout. Alternate captain and senior Calvin Wojtaszak scored the lone goal in the game late in the third period to secure the victory for the Saints.
For game two the team traveled to Ypsilanti to face off against EMU for the second time in as many days. In a hard fought game with plenty of back-and-forth, the Saints couldn’t overcome a 4-2 deficit and lost it 4-3, making their season record thus far 3-2-1.
Although the season is still young, the Saints are flashing some of the talent that won them a championship last year. Not only do they have a lot of returning players from their championship team, but also a lot of talented young players that signed to play for the Saints during the off-season.
“The new players have been a great addition to our team as we lost many players from last year,” senior and team captain Domenic Fusco said. “They have been contributing by stepping into the roles they are asked to play on the ice. Whether it be playing physical, blocking shots, or scoring goals our new players have done a great job filling their role and contributing to the team’s goals.”
The Saints will be back in action Oct. 20 against Oakland University.