The Gannon University club hockey team took to Amherst, N.Y., for the National Collegiate Hockey Association’s Founder’s Cup on March 24-26, but the Knights did not return with any first-place hardware.
Instead, they were swept in three games.
The festivities actually began on March 23 as seven of Gannon’s all-stars teamed up with Western Washington University for the all-star game.
The duo of Gannon and WWU won the all-star game, 9-5.
After that the Knights went into the preliminary rounds of the tournament facing the No. 1 seed, Union College. Gannon fell to the Dutchmen 9-2; goals were scored by Josh Green and Zach Thibault, both on power plays.
Green, Thibault and Blaine Adams assisted with the goals and goaltender Trey Brown had 41 saves.
The Rev. Jason Glover, Gannon’s head coach, was thoroughly impressed with Union College’s play.
“They were, perhaps, one of the most talented teams I have faced in five years,” Glover said.
The Knights then faced off against former all-star teammates Western Washington, and the Vikings promptly took a 2-0 lead after one period.
After the break, Gannon came out with three goals from Green on a power play, Thibault and John Roberts. Adams had two assists while Ian Newman and Thibault each had one.
The Knights took the 3-2 lead into the third period but the Vikings tied it in the second half of the period and the game remained knotted at 3-3 until the end of regulation play.
After a five-minute three-on-three overtime period, the game remained at a 3-3 stalemate and went to a shootout. WWU’s goalies denied four Gannon attempts and the Vikings nailed one to take a 4-3 overtime victory.
For the final game of the championship tournament, the Knights were pitted against Penn State Altoona, which beat Gannon in the College Hockey East Championships weeks before.
Going into the game, the Knights were ranked No. 3 and Altoona had the No. 1 seed. The game was back and forth but Altoona took a 2-0 lead after the first period.
Gannon was able to tie it at 2-2 in the second, continuing the seesaw play. However, right before the second period ended, Altoona snuck one past Gannon to take a 3-2 lead.
Early in the third period, the Knights struck again, tying the score at 3-3. But the game would ultimately go to Altoona as the Lions scored the last goal in the final six minutes of play solidifying a 4-3 win.
The Knights tried to scrape together another goal as they pulled goalie Brown and with a six on three advantage, it seemed Gannon would score.
However, that wasn’t the case. According to Glover, a scuffle broke out with seven seconds left in front of the net due to dirty play by Altoona’s goaltender.
As a result several players were ejected on both sides and the refs almost called the game because of it. As the clock wound down, Gannon would not be able to score with only seven seconds left and Altoona again beat the Knights, this time by 4-3.
Despite finishing earlier than expected, the team played well, Glover said.
“We faced some tough competition and forged some bonds with West Coast teams we would never otherwise have had the opportunity to meet or play against,” Glover said. “It was a good experience all around.”
Including the championship games the team recently played, Gannon ended the season at 17-5. Some of the significant victories came over Youngstown State University and the University of Buffalo, both large schools in comparison to Gannon and Buffalo won its second consecutive championship this year.
Glover said the team put up some good fights throughout the season, in particular Slippery Rock. The Knights lost by one against a higher division team.
Junior Patrick Korn said it was great for the team to compete in the national tournament and the fact that the team hasn’t been there in a few years made it even better.
“With the success of this season I hope we can make another appearance at the national tournament and maybe succeed further than we did this year,” Korn said.
According to Glover, the team had its up and downs but kept it together throughout the seven-month endeavor. He said he was especially proud of the team’s only graduating senior, Greg Newman, who ended his career on the national scene.
“We’ve got some work to do to clean up our game and take it to the next level and that work will begin in 161 days, when we have our first ice-practice of the 2017-18 season,” Glover said.
Newman said the season was great and that the future looks bright for the team.
“Throughout my four years as a Gannon hockey player I have had the pleasure of meeting the best group of friends,” he said. “I am going to miss the camaraderie and family atmosphere.
“Also since hockey has been a part of my life for the last 16 years I am going to miss everything from the late-night practices to the game itself.”