Ice Hockey Club makes national appearance

By the time you read this article, the VCU Ice Hockey team will have already played their first game at the national level. The Rams are competing at this year’s American Collegiate Hockey Association’s annual Division Three Men’s Hockey Tournament, held March 6-8 in Muskeegon, Michigan. Each year 16 Division Three schools are selected to compete, and this year the Ice Hockey Club at VCU made the list.

The ACHA tournament will bring the Ram’s up-and-down season to an end. The team finished the regular season in second place (the club’s best season to date), falling just short of a first place finish, after only garnering a second-place finish at this year’s post-season conference tournament. The only games remaining after the conference tournament on VCU’s schedule were played against 15 of the nation’s best, on the largest stage the team could ever hope for.

“Nationals has been a dream for three years now. It came as a surprise this year. It’s an honor to represent the school at a national event,” Head Coach Jim Bocrie said.

Team Captain DJ Behm agrees with the coach. “I think it’s another big step. We are growing as a club,” he said. “It reflects well on the club and school, it helps to legitimize the team.”

Entering the season, the Rams looked to dominate their division foes in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference. Solid play in the first half of the season carried them to a 7-4-1 division record (8-12-1 overall). The team returned from the holiday break a bit rusty and lost a bit of momentum. Late season losses to arch-rivals Hampton Roads and University of Richmond took VCU out of contention for a first place finish. It was Radford University who paved the way for VCU’s second-place finish by losing their last two games. The Rams finished regular-season play with a first-round bye in the season-ending conference tournament.

The tournament was held last weekend in Hampton Roads, with six BRHC teams competing: (ordered by seeding) Hampton Roads, VCU, RU, UR, North Carolina State B and Appalachian State. An upset win by ASU and a victory by UR on Friday meant the second round games were set. VCU would meet UR, and Hampton would play upstart ASU. Saturday members of the All-BRHC team were awarded trophies for their accomplishments. VCU forwards David Craig and Brady Cole were both named to the All-BRHC team and Craig was given the Mike Brown Memorial trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Cole led the Rams in BRHC, scoring with 16 goals and 25 points, although Craig amassed 5 goals and 21 points while leading the team in assists (16) as well as penalty minutes (33). Cole said he owes his success to the entire team.

“It’s quite an honor. I couldn’t have done it without my line mates as well as the rest of the team and coaches,” he said. “It reflects on the overall team.”

Saturday at 6:30 p.m. VCU and UR met for another game in what has quickly developed into a fierce rivalry. The teams have always played close games, and this was no exception. Both squads had chances throughout the game, although neither team was able to take much of an advantage. UR’s Jason Sarnovsky scored the initial goal of the game in the first period, but VCU quickly responded, as David Craig put the Rams on the board with his first goal of the tournament. In the second period, VCU’s Jay Greeley scored the first goal of his career to give VCU the lead. Greeley’s goal would stand as the game winner, and Craig would add an empty-net goal with seconds remaining to seal the victory for VCU.

Sunday the Rams faced ASU in the BRHC championship game. VCU got on the scoreboard first when Blair Kipp scored, but ASU would rebound as forwards Bobby Hathaway and Andy Bullen both scored. ASU took at 2-1 lead into the second period, but neither team was able to score as the game moved into the third and final period. VCU forward Craig tied the game for the Rams early in the third, and for a while the score remained knotted. Four late goals by ASU, however, would finish the Rams and give ASU the championship. Despite the best-ever finish, the club hoped to do better.

“It’s disapointing,” Cole said. “We should have won. It’s like we failed. Ultimately, we failed at reaching our main goal.”

After the game, VCU was awarded a second place trophy and the BRHC commissioner congratulated the team on making nationals. ASU was then awarded the league trophy and senior goalie Brett Dabb was named playoff MVP.

The final stop on the club’s schedule this season was the national tournament. Teams are chosen for the tournament based on the strength of the schedule and performance against Division Two schools. The Rams played well against their Division Two opponents this year, nearly beating Virginia Polytechnic University, University of Maryland-Baltimore County and West Virginia University. The first game for the Ice Hockey Club in the tournament was against Hope College. The team played well against several other tough teams from around the nation, but was unable to secure a victory.

Behm is excited about what the appearance at nationals means for the club.

“I think it’s another big step,” he said.

Regular Season Statistics

Todd Bair – 0g, 0a, 2pim

DJ Behm – 0g, 1a, 10pim

Chris Chase – 4g, 2a, 25pim

Brady Cole – 16g, 9a, 18pim

David Craig – 5g, 16a, 33pim

Matt Doe – 1g, 2a, 2pim

Dan Farrell – 0g, 0a, 0pim

Jon Flakowicz – 1g, 3a, 14pim

Jay Greeley – 0g, 1a, 0pim

Sean Gulla – 1g, 2a, 21pim

Ryan Johnson – 3g, 2a, 2pim

Arthur Kingdom – 4g, 4a, 4pim

Blair Kipp – 6g, 6a, 10pim

Tim Kuhn – 0g, 1a, 18pim

Jay Lipchak – 2g, 3a, 10pim

Victor Liu – 1g, 3a, 4pim

John Savage – 0g, 3a, 2pim

Matt Wagner – 1g, 0a, 0pim

Matt Wentz – 8g, 8a, 4pim

Zach Wentz – 10g, 11a, 14pim

Goalies:

Jim Bearden – 212 min, 13 ga, 113 shots, 88% save

William Chase – 108 minutes, 5 ga, 42 shots, 88% save

Sean Crilley – 274 min, 13 ga, 168 shots, 92% save, 1 shutout

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