From The Carroll News
By Ashley McCall
As the classic saying goes, “it’s hard to beat a team that never gives up.”
The John Carroll American Collegiate Hockey Association DI Club Hockey Team is a prime example of the meaning of this saying as they were crowned the 2022 ACHA Tournament Champions on Sunday, Feb. 20.
After defeating No. 5 Kent State University, No. 2 Indiana University of Pennsylvania and No 1. University of Pittsburgh in three consecutive days, the Blue Streaks earned themselves a ticket to the ACHA DI National Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.
It was a weekend full of excitement as the games’ intensity increased with each victory.
Kent State University
Starting the tournament on Friday, Feb. 18, the Blue and Gold faced off against Kent State University.
Scoring was the name of the game as the Blue Streaks found the back of the net six times during the match-up for an offensive victory.
Ryan Young ‘25, Jimmy Grable ‘22, Andrew Fralich ‘22 (2), Max Wopperer ‘22 and Tristan Weigand ‘25 each added scores for John Carroll to contribute to the 6-3 defeat against the Golden Flashes.
“Kent is a good team. They are physical and strong. We went 1-1 with them in the regular season, so beating them blatantly, it solidified playing for each other,” said Fralich, who scored once and tallied two assists. “We wanted to use it as a stepping stone for the bigger picture and to build off from the mistakes from that game. It just sharpened the ax for the next two games.”
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
Carrying the momentum from Friday’s victory, the Blue Streaks faced off against IUP on Saturday, Feb. 19 with a spot in the Sunday’s championship game on the line.
The game came down to the wire as the teams were tied up at three with 27 seconds left in regulations. Wopperer, Brian Russell ‘22 and Tyler Putnam ‘24 contributed the first three goals of the game for the Blue and Gold.
As the crowd prepared themselves for what was to be the inevitable overtime, Sean Deakin ‘25 had other plans.
Deakin put the nail in the coffin for IUP as he finished a shot at the 27 second mark to put John Carroll ahead 4-3.
“The emotions after scoring were crazy. As a team we were so excited and it was such a great feeling,” said Deakin “After beating IUP in such an intense way we knew that we could beat anybody if we stuck to our game plan. We knew we could beat Pitt if we kept the game simple and kept our emotions in check.”
University of Pittsburgh
The classic underdog story was upon the Blue Streaks as they faced off against the top seed in the tournament, the University of Pittsburgh, in the championship game on Sunday, Feb. 20.
After losing both regular season games against the Panthers, John Carroll knew it was going to be a tough battle.
The score remained 0-0 through two periods as the squads continued to trade shots back and forth.
Pitt made the first offensive mark on the game as they finished a goal around JCU goalie Martin Moine ‘22, just 10 minutes into the third period.
Just as it started to look bleak for the Blue and Gold, Wopperer added a goal of his own to tie the game back up 1-1.
“After the puck crossed the line I celebrated like I never had before,” said Wopperer. “At that point we had all the momentum.”
The teams continued to battle it out and as the clock ran down, overtime was looming in the near future.
But, with just three minutes left in regulation, Patrick Gilbert ‘22 put the puck in the back of the net to give John Carroll the 2-1 advantage they needed.
Hoping to get a quick score, Pitt removed their goaltender from the ice to send an extra man on offense, but Grable took full advantage and sent the puck flying down into the wide open net.
With this final goal, the Blue Streaks were named the 2022 CHMA Tournament Champions, defeating the No. 1 seeded Pitt 3-1.
“This victory is one of the best feelings I’ve had in sports and in hockey specifically,” said Gilbert. “We have such a great group of guys, who are so close on and off the ice, so it’s super special for the team.”
After the 2020-2021 season was canceled due to COVID-19, John Carroll made it their goal this year to win the championship.
“This win means everything to us, it was our goal from the first time we stepped on the ice in August. We knew we could pull it off even though we were the underdogs, but it still feels surreal,” said Wopperer. “Nobody expected us to win, but all that mattered was that we knew we could. We truly left every ounce of effort, drive and grit out on the ice this weekend.”
The Blue and Gold were also able to celebrate goalie Moine as he was named the 2022 ACHA Tournament MVP.
“It was a great personal achievement, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and how they played in front of me,” said Moine. “I haven’t won any hardware like this before so it’s an incredible feeling.”
The Blue and Gold’s season will continue on as they will now compete in the ACHA DI National Tournament on Thursday, March 10 as they travel to St. Louis to take on Maryville University.
“I’m really happy for the seniors and the team. We are pumped that we get to go to the ACHAs and continue to prove ourselves to everyone,” said Clay Gazdak ‘24. “Obviously there is some stuff that we can work on, but right now we are celebrating and enjoying the win.”
(Originally published at https://carrollnews.org/195920/sports/john-carroll-club-hockey-upsets-university-of-pittsburgh-for-chma-championship-title/#)