From The Daily Emerald
By Dylan Conway
In Oregon hockey’s first game at regionals against No. 13 Texas A&M in Westminster, Colorado, the Ducks found themselves down 3-2 with just over 8 minutes to play.
With their season on the line, the Duck’s Austin Charnholm found a loose puck in the crease and poked it home, tying the game at 3 while tripping over the Aggies goalie mid-celebration.
It was the senior’s 10th goal of the year. This one forced overtime.
The Ducks couldn’t score the final goal. Texas A&M scored in overtime to win 4-3, advancing to the second round and ending the Ducks season. Even with a quick exit at regionals, the Ducks made major strides this year as a hockey program. They will look to build off this year’s positives into next season as an American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 1 team for the first time.
“It would have been easy to fold up the tent and start looking forward to next year,” Head Coach Rylee Orr said. “The guys showed up and continued to work, and I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity to move to the next round of regionals and just ultimately came up a little bit short.”
In the 2021-22 season, Oregon went undefeated in Pac-8 conference play, going 12-0. They also secured a 17-4-1 D2 record as well as a 18-7-1 overall record, including their D1 opponents.
The Ducks went into the year with a mission of winning regionals and advancing to nationals. Even though the squad came up short, many positives can be taken from this year, especially given the adversity the team faced.
At the beginning of the year, the team was notified they wouldn’t have a home locker room, forcing them to get ready for practice in the lobby of the Rink Exchange at 5 a.m.
Cancellations due to COVID-19 affected the team as well, forcing them to play no games for a month directly before heading to regionals. The group battled through to play their first and only regional game without two of their top players.
“There’s a lot of positives,” Orr said. “Record was good. We competed in D1 games, which are going to be important for the guys moving forward, just knowing what to expect at that next level… Overall, happy with the season –– obviously came up short of our goals and wish that we had some games down the stretch to help us prepare.”
The most important piece of news to come out of the 2021-22 season is that Oregon Ducks hockey will be competing at the ACHA D1 level, starting next fall.
With a big step up in competition and a more intense traveling schedule, Orr is confident that the squad will be competitive immediately.
One of the biggest moments from this season was the Ducks first ever D1 victory: They defeated Grand Canyon University’s D1 team 5-4 back on Nov. 18, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The team drove about 27 hours to play GCU and battled back from a deficit in the game to secure a huge win for the program.
“That GCU game was probably the biggest of the year, and it really sets the tone for next year,” Orr said.
Orr, not content with just the new label, expects the team to be competitive in their first year of D1 hockey.
“My expectations are that we’re going to be a team that will compete in year one,” Orr said.
The roster for next season is close to being finalized, with some big recruits coming out of Orr’s winter break scouting trips. With Oregon’s brand, it’s become easier to attract players to an up and coming hockey program.
“We’ve got a massive brand which is the University of Oregon, and now we’ve got an ACHA D1 program,” Orr said.
In a year full of adversity, the Ducks didn’t reach their ultimate goal of competing in nationals. However, the season still holds many positives through a dominant record and an array of achievements as they look forward to next year.
(Originally published at https://www.dailyemerald.com/oregon-hockey-moves-forward-into-the-offseason/article_8ad8d600-99ac-11ec-ac7d-f3909ac999dd.html)