From IU Hockey
By Sam Weixler
CINCINNATI, OHIO- After a physically demanding and exciting weekend of playoff hockey, the Indiana Hoosiers earned the title of 2022 Champions of the Tri-State Collegiate Hockey League Playoffs. It took three days of games against the Ohio Bobcats, Michigan Wolverines, and Miami Redhawks, but the Indiana side persevered through it all to claim the banner.
IU netminder Sammy Bilis was named the 2022 Commissioner’s Choice TSCHL Playoff MVP after carrying Indiana to three postseason victories and amassing a 1.67 GAA and a .958 save percentage along the way.
On Sunday, Club Ice Hockey at Indiana University (22-5-1, 13-3-0 TSCHL) took down the back-to-back regular season champion Miami University Redhawks (24-8-2, 13-1-0 TSCHL), led by regular season MVP goalie Colt Hanks, by the score of 4-2. Will Gerami chiseled his name into the scoresheet twice during the second period, after getting two great passes from Ithan DeLorenzo to tie and take the lead.
When asked about the chemistry of the team as a whole, fellow Indiana Juniors Jack Null, Jack Kissell, and Adam Offenbach all agreed on one key aspect of teamwork. “It seems like every single guy in this locker room has bought in completely and is on board with what we are trying to accomplish,” Null verbalized after the win.
“Even the one or two dudes that didn’t totally understand our goals at the beginning of tryouts in the summer did everything they possibly could to help this team raise a banner by the end of the year, and that’s what it takes to be champions. An entire team who has each other’s back the whole way through, no matter what.”
The final game was the second championship in a row that Miami gave up a lead to the regular season runner-up; The Redhawks blew a 3-0 lead in the 2020 TSCHL Championship to the Ohio State Buckeyes en route to a 4-3 OSU victory. This year also marks the seventh Tri-State Playoff final where the regular season fell in the championship game. The last club to secure the TSCHL season double was Toledo at the end of the 2014 campaign.
Late Friday night, Indiana defeated the scrappy Ohio Bobcats 4-1 in a first round game marred by confusing rules interpretations that resulted in two IU goals being negated. Indiana Freshmen Ithan DeLorenzo and Will Gerami combined for the majority of the scoring, and captain d-man Nathan Cesarski knocked in one of his own while anchoring the defensive efforts.
Veteran skaters Jack Null, Vlad Khrushch, and Adam Offenbach all threw their bodies around to deter the Bobcats on both sides of the sheet as well. Bilis stopped all but one shot during the knock down-drag out contest, and the Hoosiers punched their ticket to the second round as Friday night turned into Saturday.
On the second day of the tournament, Tommy Macdonald once again proved just how valuable his offensive presence can be, especially when he isn’t in the penalty box or getting into opponents’ heads with clever trash-talk.
T-Mac put the puck in the net thrice in the semi-final against the Michigan goaltender Chris Scott. On the defensive end, the Hoosiers again stood tall. Will Kiecker, Cesarski, Matt McKay, and other blue-liners each stepped up by digging into the corners to regain possession and break out of their own end.
After seeing the Redhawks of Miami make quick work of the defending-champion Ohio State Buckeyes, the Hoosiers began the final preparations for their shot at a title.
“We knew one way or another that we would have to go through Miami in this tournament,” said Indiana Head Coach Andrew Weiss, “they’ve been the best team in the league all season, and didn’t lose a single game to a TSCHL opponent… we knew it would be a tall task.”
As it turned out, the Hoosiers would have to take down the daunting Miami Redhawks before they could think about which part of the Frank Southern Ice Arena would be best to hang a potential league championship banner.
The matinee matchup against Miami on Sunday was a much-anticipated game, and both sides had reason to be confident. The last time the two went head to head, the Redhawks beat Indiana twice (3-0 and 6-0) on consecutive days in the fall. For Indiana, an 11-game winning streak was on the line. Also in jeopardy was IU’s unbelievable run of 15 wins in 16 games since Coach Andrew Weiss took over the program.
Despite staring down the fourth-best team in the ACHA Southeast region and giving up an early fluke goal, Indiana fought back. Gerami single handedly put up a crooked number on league MVP Colt Hanks, and was followed by Khrushch pushing a loose puck in to make it 3-1 in the third period. As previously mentioned, Ithan DeLorenzo’s passing played a major factor in the scoring: he earned three primary assists on the first three Indiana goals.
The Redhawks, coached by first-year benchman and former Miami D1 NCAA player Bryce Hatten, did not go down without a fight. A goal slipped past Sammy Bilis with under 5 minutes to go, but Indiana quickly regained their composure and their two-goal lead. After Hatten burned his team’s timeout, Drew Micheli launched home an empty-netter in the waning seconds to seal the deal for the Hoosiers.
As the clock flashed triple-zeroes, the Indiana bench emptied onto the ice in glee while chucking their mitts and buckets all over the sheet. The trophy was handed from TSCHL Commissioner Tim Driscoll to Bilis, then into the eagerly awaiting hands of team captain Nathan Cesarski.
For the upperclassmen, and especially the Seniors Kenyon, Khrushch, and McDaniel, it was a sweet moment. The three endured tough seasons on and off the ice, as well as losing their entire Junior year of hockey to the Covid-19 Pandemic that canceled the 2020-21 season for nearly all ACHA teams.
“This is such a crazy feeling- I honestly didn’t imagine it quite like this when I started playing my Freshman year” admitted team president and alternate captain Cade Kenyon. Kenyon, who will be moving to Chicago, Illinois at season’s end to begin his career in the business world, leaves behind an Indiana hockey program forever changed, and drastically so during his tenure.
“When I got here, the team didn’t have a big budget, and we were really pulling to make ends meet. The guys before me did all they could to keep things moving smoothly, and I’m thankful for the effort that guys like Will Patton and others put in to help us along the way.”
Ithan DeLorenzo’s Sunday got even better after lifting the silver trophy, as he successfully lobbied to have the team’s postgame dinner at the local Chili’s Bar & Grill in Cincinnati. He was immediately overjoyed when the Chili’s corporate twitter account replied to the team’s tweet and picture in front of the restaurant. “I have legit never seen someone so happy to go to a specific restaurant,” said Will Kiecker, who frequently sits near DeLorenzo on team road trips.
The league championship is the first TSCHL trophy in Indiana Hockey program history, and the first league cup since their 2001 Big Ten Hockey League title nearly a generation ago.
The Indiana Hoosiers will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the ACHA Southeast Regional tournament. Their first game is scheduled for Friday night at 8 PM against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Due to ACHA media rights restrictions, the only broadcast available of the Regionals game(s) will be via HockeyTV.
(Originally published at https://www.hockeyiu.com/articles/hoosiers-defeat-topranked-miami-redhawks-42-in-final-game-to-win-tschl-playoffs-championship-22022-kzzxl2ok)